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 by 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.
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.
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’).
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.
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.
He composed music for the score of the 2020 miniseries I Know This Much Is True.
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 died on December 8, 2020, aged 84, due to complications from COVID-19. (wikipedia)
The Pavilion of Dreams is the second album from minimalist composer Harold Budd and produced by Brian Eno. Billed as “an extended cycle of works begun in 1972,” it was recorded in 1976 but not released until 1978 on Eno’s label Obscure Records. It was later re-released on Editions EG in 1981. (wikipedia)
Mixing ethereal melodies communicated by voice or saxophone with glissando accompaniment, Harold Budd creates a series of siren songs on The Pavilion of Dreams that shimmer like light reflected on the water’s surface. Billed as “an extended cycle of works begun in 1972,” Budd’s debut apparently took a while to see the light of day itself, having been recorded in 1976, released on the aptly titled Obscure label in 1978, and re-released in 1981 on Editions EG. The minimalist composer had gained some attention in avant-garde circles with the piece “Madrigals of the Rose Angel”; featured here, it reveals the unhurried and unfolding nature of Budd’s melodies as well as his penchant for clusters of bell-like notes. “Two Songs” was written in the years that followed, adapting works from Pharoah Sanders and John Coltrane with arrangements that feature only mezzo-soprano Lynda Richardson and harpist Maggie Thomas; unless you thought the theme song to the Star Trek TV series was high art, you can skip this.
The opening “Bismillahi ‘Rhahmani ‘Rrahim” is the musical equivalent of a bubble bath; led by the soulful saxophone of Marion Brown, it’s initially lovely, yet the circumspect arrangement saps the piece of its spellbinding effect before long. The last piece composed here, “Juno,” is also the most passionate, foreshadowing the warmth and presence that would appear on subsequent works like “The Plateaux of Mirror.” As with most minimalist works, The Pavilion of Dreams requires patience and open-mindedness on the part of the listener, only more so. Harold Budd achieved an evocative and succinct style on subsequent albums, and these songs are simply the rudimentary steps that led there. (by Dave Connolly)
Richard Bernas (piano, celeste)
Marion Brown (saxophone)
Harold Budd (piano, voice)
Gavin Bryars (glockenspiel, voice)
Brian Eno (voice)
Jo Julian (marimba, vibraphone, voice)
Michael Nyman (marimba, voice)
Howard Rees (marimba, vibraphone)
Nigel Shipway (percussion)
Maggie Thomas (harp)
John White (marimba, percussion, voice)
Lynda Richardson – Margaret Cable – Lesley Reid – Ursula Connors – Alison MacGregor – Muriel Dickinson
01. Bismillahi ‘Rrhamani ‘Rrahim 18.17
02. Two Songs 6.19
02.1. Let Us Go Into The House Of The Lord Budd Rate
02.2. Butterfly Sunday (After The Rain) , Harold Budd Rate
03. Madrigals Of The Rose Angel 14.28
03.1. Rosetti Noise
03.2. The Crystal Garden
04. Juno 8.06
Music composed by Harold Budd
except 02.2. composed by Harold Budd & John Coltrane