Ambient Composer Harold Budd Dead At 84
Harold Budd, the influential avant-garde composer and pioneer of ambient music, has died. Rolling Stone reports that Budd died yesterday from complications of COVID-19. Budd was 84.
Budd was born in Los Angeles, and he served in the army as a young man, playing drums in the same regimental band that included future free jazz legend Albert Ayler on saxophone. While in the army, Budd took a music theory course at Los Angeles Community College, then went on to study music under Gerald Strang at San Fernando Valley State College. In college, Budd heard a speech from composer John Cage that had a huge effect on him. Soon, Budd was writing his own avant-garde orchestral pieces.
As he developed, Budd became fascinated with soft, meditative, minimal music, and he moved away from the discordance of many of his peers. As a pianist, Budd developed a playing style that he called “soft pedal,” which involved a lot of slowness and sustain. In the ’70s, Budd, who’d been teaching at the California Institute Of The Art, left his job to record new compositions with producer Brian Eno, whose early journeys in ambient music were inspired by Budd. Budd released his Eno-produced debut album The Pavilion Of Dreams in 1978.
Budd recorded several albums in collaboration with Eno, starting with 1980’s Ambient 2: The Plateaux Of Mirror. In the ’80s, Budd moved to the UK and recorded the 1986 album The Moon And The Melodies with the dreamy, experimental rock band the Cocteau Twins. Over the years, Budd continued to work regularly with Cocteau Twins member Robin Guthrie, and he also recorded with people like Daniel Lanois, XTC’s Andy Partridge, and post-punk bassist Jah Wobble. Earlier this year, Budd composed music for the HBO miniseries I Know This Much Is True. Last week, Budd and Robin Guthrie released a collaborative album.
Below, listen to some of Budd’s music through the ages.