|Birth name||Harold Montgomory Budd|
|Born||May 24, 1936|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
|Died||December 8, 2020 (aged 84)|
Arcadia, California, U.S.
Harold Montgomory Budd (May 24, 1936 – December 8, 2020) was an American avant-garde composer and poet. Born in Los Angeles and raised in the Mojave Desert, Budd became a respected composer in the minimalist and avant-garde scene of Southern California in the late 1960s, and later became better known for his work with figures such as Brian Eno and Robin Guthrie. Budd developed what he called a "soft pedal" technique for playing piano.
Budd was born in Los Angeles, California, and spent his childhood in Victorville, California on the southwestern edge of the Mojave Desert. Drafted into the army, he joined the regimental band where he played drums. Jazz saxophonist Albert Ayler was drafted at the same time and was also a member of the band. Budd joined him in gigs around the Monterey area. Budd's experience of the army made him determined to get an education.
Education, academic career and early works
After working as "everything from cowboy to mailman," including a stint at Douglas Aircraft, Budd enrolled in a course in architecture at Los Angeles Community College. He switched to a course in harmony and his musical talent was spotted by a teacher who encouraged him to compose. He began to attend performances by artists like Chet Baker and Pharoah Sanders.
Budd's career as a composer began in 1962. In the following years, he gained a notable reputation in the local avant-garde community. Budd studied music at the University of Southern California, under the tutelage of Ingolf Dahl, graduating in 1966. Budd's work of this period was primarily minimalist drone music influenced by John Cage and Morton Feldman, as well as the abstract expressionist painter Mark Rothko, with whom he corresponded.
After completing his degree in composition in 1969, Budd took up a teaching position at the California Institute for the Arts. In 1970, he released his first piece, The Oak of the Golden Dreams, which he recorded with an early model Buchla modular synthesizer at the institute.
Soon afterwards, Budd gave up composition, disgusted by the "academic pyrotechnics" of the avant-garde community.
Composer and recording artist
The road from my first colored graph piece in 1962 to my renunciation of composing in 1970 to my resurfacing as a composer in 1972 was a process of trying out an idea and when it was obviously successful abandoning it. The early graph piece was followed by the Rothko orchestra work, the pieces for Source Magazine, the Feldman-derived chamber works, the pieces typed out or written in longhand, the out-and-out conceptual works among other things, and the model drone works (which include the sax and organ Coeur d'Orr and The Oak of the Golden Dreams, the latter based on the Balinese 'Slendro' scale which scale I used again 18 years later on 'The Real Dream of Sails').— Harold Budd
In 1972, while still retaining his teaching career at the California Institute for the Arts, he resurfaced as a composer. Spanning from 1972 to 1975, he created four individual works under the collective title The Pavilion of Dreams. The style of these works was an unusual blend of popular jazz and the avant-garde. His 1972 work Madrigals of the Rose Angel was sent to English composer Gavin Bryars who passed it on to Brian Eno. Eno contacted Budd and brought him to London to record for his Obscure Records label.
I owe Eno everything, OK? That's the end of that... I was plucked from the tree, and suddenly I had flowered. I was just waiting. I couldn't do it on my own. I didn't know anything.— Harold Budd
Budd resigned from the institute in 1976 and began recording his new compositions, produced by Eno. Two years later, Harold Budd's debut album, The Pavilion of Dreams (1978), was released. The first performance of the piece was at a Franciscan church in California conducted by Daniel Lentz."
The work with Eno led Budd to shift his focus to studio-led projects, characterised by use of synthesisers and electronic treatments, often collaborating with other musicians. Budd developed a style of piano playing he deemed "soft pedal," which can be described as slow and sustained. While he is often placed in the Ambient category, he emphatically declared that he was not an Ambient artist, and felt that he got "kidnapped" into the category.
His two collaborations with Eno, 1980's The Plateaux of Mirror and 1984's The Pearl, established his trademark atmospheric piano style. On Lovely Thunder, he introduced subtle electronic textures. His thematic 2000 release The Room saw a return to a more minimalist approach. In 2003, Daniel Lanois, a producer for U2 and Bob Dylan, and occasional collaborator with Brian Eno, recorded an impromptu performance of Budd playing the piano in his Los Angeles living room, unaware; it was released in 2005 as the album La Bella Vista.
He had a long-running collaboration with guitarist Robin Guthrie. They worked together initially when Budd worked with Guthrie's band The Cocteau Twins on their 1985 collaboration The Moon and the Melodies. The record was released by 4AD under all the collaborator's names (rather than being a Cocteau Twins/Harold Budd record), with Budd being listed first as it was an alphabetical listing. In November 1986, the record charted on the UK Top 75 album chart, spending a week at number 46. Budd and Guthrie subsequently released several albums together, including two soundtracks to the Greg Araki films Mysterious Skin (2004) and White Bird in a Blizzard (2014), with the last, 2020's Another Flower, released four days before Budd's death.
Budd also collaborated with Andy Partridge of XTC on the album Through the Hill (1994), John Foxx on the album Translucence/Drift Music (2003) and work with Jah Wobble on the Solaris concert and live album in 2002.
Brian Eno called Budd "a great abstract painter trapped in the body of a musician".
The Guardian said, "The core Budd sound of yearning piano motifs and reverb-laden impressionism is often called minimalism. But compared with the cyclical craft of Steve Reich and early Philip Glass, his low-key, expansive forays felt deftly maximalist. This has made Budd's craft synonymous with the dreamworld. An heir to Satie and Debussy, his music was treated and poetic, never kneejerk nor incautious."
Budd was undergoing therapy in a short-term rehabilitation facility after suffering a stroke on November 11, 2020, where he contracted COVID-19. He died on December 8, in a hospital in Arcadia, California, aged 84, due to complications from COVID-19.
- The Pavilion of Dreams (1978) E.G. Records produced by Brian Eno
- Ambient 2: The Plateaux of Mirror (1980) E.G. Records with Brian Eno
- The Pearl (1984) E.G. Records with Brian Eno
- Lovely Thunder (1986) E.G. Records produced by Michael Hoenig
- The Moon and the Melodies (1986) 4AD with Simon Raymonde, Robin Guthrie and Elizabeth Fraser of Cocteau Twins
- The White Arcades (1988) Opal Records produced by Brian Eno
- By the Dawn's Early Light (1991) Opal Records with Bill Nelson, B. J. Cole, Susan Allen
- Music for 3 Pianos (1992) All Saints Records with Ruben Garcia and Daniel Lentz.
- Luxa (1996) All Saints Records
- The Room (2000) Atlantic Records
- Translucence/Drift Music (2003) Edsel Records with John Foxx
- Avalon Sutra / As Long as I Can Hold My Breath 2-CD digipak (2004) Samadhisound produced by Harold Budd
- Mysterious Skin – Music from the Film (2005) Commotion Records/Rykodisc with Robin Guthrie
- White Bird in a Blizzard (2014) Lakeshore Records with Robin Guthrie
- Another Flower (2020) Darla Records with Robin Guthrie
- Nicolas Slonimsky; Laura Kuhn; Dennis McIntire (January 1, 2001). Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians (9th ed.). Schirmer Books. ISBN 9780028655253. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved March 2, 2015 – via HighBeam Research.
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