Some retirements are more fruitful than others. So it is with composer Harold Budd. After the better part of a half century of music-making with the likes of Brian Eno, The Cocteau Twins, Daniel Lentz, Fila Brazillia et al, Harold, having had a son very “late in the day”, decided to pack it in. Devotees of his irreplaceable expressions of impossibly beautiful music were crestfallen.
In 1980, while fully immersed in the post-punk world of Cabaret Voltaire, Throbbing Gristle, Eyeless in Gaza etc. I often found myself in a special, quiet clearing made possible by Eno’s peripheral “ambient” projects, one of which, “Plateaux of Mirror: Ambient 2” with Harold Budd, took hold of my imagination and launched a lifelong interest in Budd’s achingly serene, crepuscular music.
While his music has proven to be as eternal as our technologies will allow, the same can’t be said of his early master tapes…or of any of us, really. So a sigh of relief was heard when his “retirement” proved short-lived. In the last few years he has embarked on a seemingly endless schedule of recordings, collaborations and publications with Robin Guthrie, Clive Wright, Keith Lowe et al. His latest CD, a suite of string quartets, has just come out on Darla records. It’s called “Bandits of Stature”.
This photo was taken prior to a splendid gig in a converted church in Seattle with Robin Guthrie as part of the 2007 Decibel Festival. We went for dinner afterwards and discussed rare books and the application of the word palimpsest to the state of his master tapes. This wasn’t a bad thing but an acknowledgement and re-framing of the endless process of layering and composting that our efforts to create in this life are randomly subjected to. The next day Robin told me the same thing was happening to the Cocteau’s early masters.
When Harold is finally gone I will remember his sense of humour, quick wit and his response to an overly earnest piano technician’s query over the precise tuning of the piano for the evening’s concert; “Why should I care?”