Harold Montgomory Budd (May 24, 1936 – December 8, 2020) was an American composer and poet.[2] Born in Los Angeles and raised in the Mojave Desert, he 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.[3] Budd developed what he called a "soft pedal" technique for playing piano, with use of slow playing and prominent sustain.

Harold Budd
Harold Budd.jpg
Background information
Birth nameHarold Montgomory Budd
Born(1936-05-24)May 24, 1936
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
DiedDecember 8, 2020(2020-12-08) (aged 84)
Arcadia, California, U.S.
  • Musician
  • composer
  • poet
  • professor
  • Piano
  • keyboards
  • guitar
Years active1962–2020

Early lifeEdit

Budd was born in Los Angeles, California, and spent his childhood in Victorville, California on the southwestern edge of the Mojave Desert.[4]

Harold was only 13 when his father died, and soon his family fell out of their comfortable middle class existence. He was sent up to the desert to live with friends and relatives as often as possible, but the reality in Los Angeles was growing up in a tough neighborhood, and as the oldest son, being the man of the house. During this time Black culture had an enormous impact on Harold, especially jazz music and bebop, and he could be found in his teenage years playing drums in bars and jazz clubs in South Central Los Angeles.

Drafted into the army, he joined the regimental band where he played drums at Presidio of Monterey (POM).[5] Jazz saxophonist Albert Ayler was drafted at the same time and was also a member of the band.[5] Budd joined him in gigs around the Monterey area.[4] Budd's experience of the army made him determined to get an education.[6]

Education, academic career and early worksEdit

Budd attended high school at Los Angeles High School, but did not graduate. He worked as "everything from cowboy to mailman,"[7] including a stint at Douglas Aircraft. At the age of 21, he left Douglas, and briefly moved to San Francisco. While there, he worked at Gump's. Unable to continue living in San Francisco, Budd returned to Los Angeles, and enrolled in an architecture course at Los Angeles City College.[8] He switched to a course in harmony and renaissance counterpoint and his musical talent was spotted by a teacher who encouraged him to compose.[8] He began to attend performances by artists like Chet Baker and Pharoah Sanders.[7]

“From that moment on,” he recalls, “I had an insatiable appetite. Harmony, counterpoint, Renaissance music: I really heard it for the first time.”

Budd's career as a composer began in 1962. In the following years, he gained a notable reputation in the local avant-garde community.[9] Budd studied music at California State University, Northridge, under Gerald Strang (a protege of Arnold Schoenberg) and Aurelio de la Vega. He graduated from CSUN, and then went on full scholarship to the University of Southern California, under the tutelage of Ingolf Dahl,[10][11] graduating in 1966.[12] 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.[12]

After completing his degree in composition in 1969, Budd took up a teaching position at the California Institute for the Arts.[8] 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.[7]

At the encourage of Brian Eno and Marion Brown, he left CalArts for London. Soon afterwards, Budd gave up composition, disgusted by the "academic pyrotechnics" of the avant-garde community.[6] In London, he found his composing community of Eno, Gavin Bryars, Michael Nyman, and the members of the Cocteau Twins.

In 2004, Budd and his wife moved to Monument House in Joshua Tree.

Composer and recording artistEdit

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[9]

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.[10]

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[7]

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."[13]

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.[14] Budd developed a style of piano playing he deemed "soft pedal," which can be described as slow and sustained.[12] 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.[15]

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.[16]

He had a long-running collaboration with guitarist Robin Guthrie. They worked together initially when Budd worked with Guthrie's band 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.[17] 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, recorded in 2013 but only released four days before Budd's death.[18][12][19][5][20]

Budd also collaborated with Andy Partridge of XTC on the album Through the Hill (1994),[21] John Foxx on the album Translucence/Drift Music (2003)[22] and work with Jah Wobble on the Solaris concert and live album in 2002.[23]

He composed music for the score of the 2020 miniseries I Know This Much Is True.[24]


Brian Eno called Budd "a great abstract painter trapped in the body of a musician".[7]

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."[25]


Budd was undergoing therapy at a short-term rehabilitation facility after suffering a stroke on November 11, 2020. It was there he contracted COVID-19 amid the COVID-19 pandemic in California. He died from complications of COVID-19 at a hospital in Arcadia on December 8, 2020.[26] He was 84.[27][28][29]

Selected discographyEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ John Bush. Harold Budd at AllMusic. Retrieved 26 April 2020.
  2. ^ a b 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.
  3. ^ Bush, John. "Harold Budd - Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved April 24, 2020.
  4. ^ a b "A Box of Budd: Talking to Harold Budd". theaudiophileman.com. Retrieved April 7, 2018.
  5. ^ a b c Aswad, Jem (December 9, 2020). "Composer Harold Budd, Collaborator With Eno and Cocteau Twins, Dies of COVID-19 Complications".
  6. ^ a b Jonze, Tim (February 24, 2014). "Harold Budd: the composer with no urge to make music". The Guardian. Retrieved December 9, 2020.
  7. ^ a b c d e "Harold Budd, ambient composer and Eno collaborator, dies of COVID-19 complications at 84". Los Angeles Times. December 9, 2020.
  8. ^ a b c "Harold Budd: Budd in May". The Independent. Archived from the original on May 9, 2022. Retrieved December 9, 2020.
  9. ^ a b "Harold Budd: utterly no interest in labels". FDLeone.com. May 24, 2016. Retrieved May 19, 2017.
  10. ^ a b "Interview: Harold Budd". Red Bull Academy. Retrieved December 9, 2020.
  11. ^ Lim, Eddy (December 8, 2020). "Avant-garde composer Harold Budd has died at the age of 84". NME.
  12. ^ a b c d e "US composer Harold Budd dies aged 84". Guardian. December 8, 2020. Retrieved December 9, 2020.
  13. ^ The Pavilion of Dreams (booklet). EG. 1992. p. 2.
  14. ^ "Harold Budd - gavin Bryars". GavinBryars.com. Retrieved December 9, 2020.
  15. ^ Hoffer, Jason; Harold Budd. "Drinking Scotch, smoking cigarettes, and hanging out with Feldman, Rothko and Budd" (audio (mp3)). Going Thru Vinyl Ltd. Retrieved September 21, 2012.
  16. ^ "La Bella Vista - Harold Budd". December 9, 2020. Retrieved December 9, 2020.
  17. ^ "Harold Budd/Elisabeth Fraser/Robin Guthrie/Simon Raymonde". Official Charts.
  18. ^ "listen to new Robin Guthrie & Harold Budd album 'Another Flower'". BrooklynVegan.
  19. ^ "Avant-garde composer Harold Budd has died at the age of 84". NME. December 8, 2020.
  20. ^ Petridis, Alexis (December 10, 2020). "Paul McCartney: McCartney III review – lockdown LP has his best songs in years". The Guardian.
  21. ^ "Andy Partridge Harold Budd Through the Hill". Chalkhills.org. Retrieved December 9, 2020.
  22. ^ "Track by Track:John Foxx". The Quietus. Retrieved December 9, 2020.
  23. ^ "Solaris: Live in Concert album review". Pitchfork. Retrieved December 9, 2020.
  24. ^ "HBO's 'I Know This Much Is True' to Feature Original Music by Harold Budd". Film Music Reporter. Retrieved December 11, 2020.
  25. ^ Brian, Coney (December 9, 2020). "Harold Budd's sublime music was a gateway to a brighter world". The Guardian.
  26. ^ Smith, Steve (December 17, 2020). "Harold Budd, Composer of Spaciousness and Calm, Dies at 84". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved December 20, 2020.
  27. ^ Smith, Steve (December 17, 2020). "Harold Budd, Composer of Spaciousness and Calm, Dies at 84". New York Times. Retrieved December 18, 2020.
  28. ^ "Harold Budd, rest in peace". Brooklynvegan.com. Retrieved December 8, 2020.
  29. ^ "Heralded Ambient Composer Harold Budd Dead at 84". Rolling Stone. Retrieved December 8, 2020.
  30. ^ "Ambient legend Harold Budd to collect assorted solo releases in Buddbox anthology". FACTMag. September 4, 2013. Retrieved December 9, 2020.

External linksEdit