Rest In Beauty: Compiling an Archive in Memory of Harold Budd

I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of my favorite ambient composer, Harold Budd this month, who we lost to complications due to COVID-19. I’ve always been able to count on his ethereal soundscapes to soothe my nerves and vanquish my anxieties, so the finality of his death was a blow to my musical world.

Budd released an impressive catalog of albums over his 49-year career in music. I maintain a digital archive of 46 of his major album releases including his latest collaboration with his longtime friend, Robin Guthrie titled Another Flower, issued just days before his passing. 

I feel so fortunate to have collected all of Budd’s albums from the 70s and 80s comprising his first eight major releases issued on vinyl before his label switched to the then-popular compact disc format, as well as the three albums he recorded with John Foxx combined into a single deluxe vinyl box set with a signed art print by Foxx.

There is one LP which preceded his first official album, The Pavilion of Dreams – the elusive The Oak Of The Golden Dreams from 1971, copies of which command many hundreds of dollars on the rare occasion that they surface. That recording was realized on the Buchla Electronic Music System at the California Institute of the Arts (then in Burbank) in 1970 and was not an official commercial release.

I’m overjoyed to have collected all of Budd’s early official vinyl releases. There are a few later albums that were issued on vinyl which I would love to own but sadly few if any have resurfaced on the used album market. Collectors purchased them directly from the label and held fast to their treasured copies, all the more so now that Budd has passed away. I watched several listed copies of his first album vanish before my eyes after news of his death spread on social media, so I had to act quickly and decisively, as I don’t expect these albums to get any less expensive and will only become rarer as more time passes. (Pavilion nearly doubled in price the day the news of his death was announced.)

I ordered the LPs I was missing on December 9th. The first hundred dollar package ended up shipping from just a few miles north of my home. Had I known that I would have instead just opted to pick it up myself. Unfortunately, the US Postal Service mis-shipped the package nearly nine hundred miles off course to Alabama, delaying its delivery in the midst of the holiday season. And as insurance was not offered on the purchase, the delay was agonizing, all the more so as a replacement copy would require international shipping and would command a still higher purchase price. After working with my local Consumer Affairs Department, I eventually received the package 19 days later, thankfully intact.

Pictured below are Budd’s first eight LPs, as well as the aforementioned Nighthawks, Translucence And Drift Music autographed box set issued in 2011. These are among the most-treasured LPs in my Archive. They include:

  • The Pavilion of Dreams
  • Ambient 2: Plateaux of Mirror
  • The Serpent (In Quicksilver)
  • Abandoned Cities
  • The Pearl
  • The Moon And The Melodies
  • Lovely Thunder
  • The White Arcades
  • Nighthawks
  • Translucence 
  • and Drift Music

John Diliberto of Echos published a wonderful feature on Budd to celebrate his memory, saying, “Harold Budd Has Left the Planet: Rest in Beauty.”

Published in: on December 28, 2020 at 3:49 pm  Comments (2)  
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  1. I’m not into ambient minimalism the way you are, but I adore “The Pavilion of Dreams”. The warm, jazzy opening of the album instantly soothes, like raindrops falling all around but miraculously none of them hitting me. Just there to be enjoyed. Observed. The wordless female vocals of the next track came as quite a surprise. Not at all what I’d have expected on a “minimalist” album, but a welcome treat all the same. Quite a magical moment with the understated plucking of the harp. This could be a psalm. The vibrato of the vocals level out into something more harmonically steady and constant on the next track, perhaps to evoke a feeling of effortless and swift flight. Surrounded by clouds, moments wherein the veil of vapor is broken, only to coalesce once again in such soft tones. And finally we come to Juno, the Mother Goddess, protector of hearth and home. More beautiful even than Venus if she but takes the time to put forth all her charms. Even Jupiter’s myriad of lovers cannot compare. War ceases for Juno, strife lays down its arms at the sighing of her breath.

    RIP

    • An exquisite description! I only wish I could weave such words to describe my love for his work. Thank you for reading and for contributing a wonderful bit of insight in tribute to his memory. Cheers!


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