COMPOSER OF THE MONTH
by Takisha Sargent
Radical composer and harpist Rhodri Davies is set on redefining and reimagining his instrument’s potential. Born in Aberystwyth in 1971 and now based In Swansea, Davies crafts performances and compositions as art instillations, often combined with exposing the harp to extreme conditions like fire, dry ice, wind and water.
After beginning his musical journey via a traditional route, Davies soon turned in a more unconventional, experimental direction. He is one of the most prominent members of the London reductionist school of improvised music – an informal group that was active in the 1990s – where he found his distinctive and complex musical voice. His works based on improvisations are used to challenge the traditional Western classical rules surrounding composition, rather exploring the greater freedom within improvising. Davies leans into free improvisation as a tool for the basis of his music, believing it allows him to build on his mistakes instead of punishing them, thus allowing more creativity. He talks about his definition of improvisation compared to the stricter rules within jazz and the hierarchy and rules that govern it as a genre. ‘I compose my own sound in real time, and I’m only constrained by my imagination and my instrument.’
Motivated by what he felt was a need for an enhancement of harp repertoire, Davies has long strived to find ever more imaginative ways in which to modernise an instrument so steeped in tradition. He has widened its timbral palette through harp preparations, explored its percussive potential and employed bowed techniques and the use of electronics. Davies also uses resonators and amplifications to further expand the range of sonorities.
As a composer Davies has had a particular focus on collaborative practice and worked with a wide variety of performers including Derek Bailey and Evan Parker as well as visual artists such as the founder of Auto-Destructive Art, Gustav Metzger, and fellow music-creators including Phill Niblock, Christian Wolff and Ben Patterson. For more than 10 years has been associated with the French composer Éliane Radigue who created Occam I, the first piece in her ongoing Occam series, for him.
Rhodri Davies performs at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama’s Weston Gallery on 29 October. His programme will include modern classics alongside his own compositions and a world premiere by Anton Lukoszevieze. ▶ tickets & info