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the harold budd interview #1

This is the first of 5 little sections: a conversation I had
with composer, Eno and Cocteau Twins collaborator and EG
recording artist Harold Budd on the evening of March 3rd, 1987.
Some subset of this will appear in an upcoming issue of OPTION
magazine, but you lucky souls get a look at the whole thing
in its complete and unexpurgated form. I hope you've all read
my blathering long enough to be able to stop paying attention
to it when you see it in interview form. Even if think that 
Budd is a fake and a wanker, perhaps you can at least appreciate
that he's something a bit more than some blown-out hippie. My
impression of him is that he's sober, thinks a lot about what
he does, and has stuck to this little piece of the world that
is his....ah, vision. Anyway, I should let him do the talking....

COPYRIGHT 1987 GREGORY TAYLOR. (hooray for property)

Although many people will certainly be thinking  about  your
new  records  "Lovery  Thunder"  and your collaboration with
Cocteau Twins, you've hardly just arrived on the  scene.   I
understand that you've been at the business of composing for
going on twenty years now.  Your contemporaries in  age  are
people  like  Steve Reich and Philip Glass.  I was wondering
if you see anything that connects your work with theirs.

    When I first emerged as an artist, I was from the same  gen-
    eration  of  people as Terry Riley and Philip Glass and John
    Hassel.  The whole point was that the scene that I came from
    involved  being  what  was  then called an avant-garde or an
    experimental composer -- flying right in the face  of  Euro-
    pean  convention  of  academic  music  at the time.  We were
    looking  for  something  entirely  different.   To  a  great
    extent,  I  think  that we all spun off from John Cage years
    earlier than that, even-and we all grew up  doing  something
    different from one another, but doing it individually.  Back
    in the sixties, to be an avant-garde American music composer
    was to be an absolute lone wolf.

I understand that you studied orchestration while  you  were
in  the  Army  band.   You  had some training as a musician,
then, but little as a composer?

    No-in fact, it was exactly the opposite.  I had no  training
    as a musician, but I had a lot of training as a composer.  I
    had one particular teacher  at  Los  Angeles  City  college,
    where  I enrolled when I was twenty-one years old, who was a
    positively brilliant theoretician.  It was  that  aspect  of
    music  that really attracted me.  It was so removed from the
    workaday life or the club scene and all that kind  of  stuff
    that I just never had any interest in at all.  It was a head
    trip for me.

Your interest was in something more private  than  the  live

    Oh yes.  Basically, I had the kind of academic foundation to
    be able to study orchestration on my own.  Look, when you're
    in the army band...  there's not much else to do.

What did you play in the army band?

    I conducted the army band for concerts on  Sunday  afternoon
    and  I  played drums-trap drums.  In fact, I was in the army
    band with Albert Ayler.

Does having been around Albert Ayler  have  anything  to  do
with  your  interest in the saxophone stuff that shows up in
your earlier works on "The Pavilion of Dreams"?

    Well, that is a sound that  I  have  always  loved,  but  it
    doesn't  come  from  there, no.  I think that what does come
    from there is that Albert Ayler was the  first  guy  that  I
    ever  met who absolutely put his life on the line every sin-
    gle time he picked up his horn and  played.   I  think  that
    that kind of committment is a very, very good idea.

How do you translate that  notion  of  risk  into  the  more
private  notion of the way that you work? You've said before
that you see your work as the "public document of a  private

    Look-it's really very simple.  Once you  decide  that  some-
    thing  is  going  to  go out on a record, I don't think that
    most people recognize just what democratic things recordings
    are.   Once  the  recording is done, it's not yours anymore.
    You have absolutely no control over it,  and  I  think  that
    that's a very good idea.  It's a great idea-in fact, I think
    that it is the future of modern music; the audience is going
    to change what the music is going to mean.

That idea of engagement seems to me to be reflected in  some
way  in  your collaborative recordings as well.  Your colla-
borators function in some way that is akin  to  a  receiving
audience;  They change what your music is going to mean in a
way that is a bit more explicit.  They are people  that  you
give  yourself to in the same way that you give your record-
ings to an audience as the raw material for  someone  else's

    That's a good point that you've made  there.   For  me,  the
    whole  point of collaboration is that you have to go into it
    with a lot of faith, because no one knows what in the hell's
    going  to  happen.  You've never worked together before, you
    don't know one another except in the most  general   way-you
    just  have a kind of faith that whatever emerges, it will be
    something that no one-no single one of you-will ever come up
    with  left to their own devices.  I think that collaboration
    is crucial that way.  You really do come up  with  something
    that you'd never ever dream up on your own-and neither would
    your collaborator.  That's what I mean about the faith part;
    you don't have a plan, you don't have a focus-except for the
    work at hand.  you just know that whatever it's going to be,
    it's going to work out.

It seems, though, as if you will be working in  a  situation
in which you can or have to trust the abilities and the sen-
sibilities of the person  that  you're  working  with-to  at
least the extent that you trust your own abilities.

    Oh, absolutely.  It is a two way street.   It  is  not  just
    coming  toegehter to do a thing of some sort.  It's involved
    with the  act  of  confronting  something  that  is  totally
    unknown  to  everyone  involved; I think that's a nice idea.
    In fact, if I have a philosophy of art, that's it-coming  up
    against  something you don't know anything about, and seeing
    how it plays-see what it does to you.

Do you see the process of  collaborations  that  occur  over
time-like  the several albums worth of work that you've done
with Brian Eno-as a series of discrete  products,  or  as  a
kind  of ongoing conversation? Does the "it" have any of the
qualities of a personal relationship?  Is  it  created  dif-
ferently  or  anew  each  time, or do you see a kind of con-
tinuity from project to project?

    Hmmm.  I have to say that I almost prefer the  process  when
    it  is  brand new, and no one really knows what is going on,
    or how it's going.  The second or third  time  you  do  that
    with  a  person it is more predictable-which isn't always as
    interesting-to me, anyway.

I  suppose, then,  that  for  you  the  initial  novelty  is
replaced  by  something  else-.  

    Yes, exactly-something that may modify the nothing that you 
    started out  with  when  you began the project.

Well, isn't it the same for the act  of  making  music?  You
don't  really sit down at the piano with nothing, after all.
There is a kind of collection of habits you bring to  making
music-physical  shapes  on the keys you're confortable with,
and some general strategies that you use to permutate  ideas

    Yes, but the end result of those habits is not fixed.

I hear a lot of  difference  between,  say,  the  first  and
second  of  your  collaborations  with Brian Eno and the new
album with the Cocteau Twins-they really sound like the pro-
duct  of  two  very  different kinds of relationships.  "The
Moon and the Melodies" seems more the product of an  initial
meeting.   To  me,  the  album  divides  rather  neatly into
halves-one half more recognizeably you and  the  other  half
more recognizeably the Twins-although each of the two of you
appears in those halves.  It is as if you  are  each  taking
some measure or taking stock of the other.

    Yes, I know.  I guess that I should say that "The Pearl"  is
    not  a naive album, in the sense that both Brian and I had a
    pretty good idea of how we going to go about doing  what  we
    did.  That is only a kind of music that is made when Eno and
    myself are together.  The same thing is true of working with
    the  Twins.   In  the  case  of "The Moon and the Melodies",
    those roles were not as clearly defined.  The  record  is  a
    record of that business of our going about what we did.  But
    still-I don't make albums like that,  and  they  don't  make
    albums like that.  It happens only when we are together.

There is a collection of sounds that I think that you  sound
like,  but  I've  always had trouble finding what it is from
case to case.

    Well, all that music  could  be  said  to  be  in  the  same
    dialect,  but  the  impetus for it is different.  The reason
    for doing each of those albums  is  different.   Hell,  it's
    really  simple-you  take  a flyer and see what happens.  But
    not only do you have to like the person  or  persons  you're
    working  with-you  also  have to admire their history.  Does
    that make sense to you?

Yes, but it implies that you somehow have some responsibili-
ties  to your past and to somebody else's.  Doesn't that fly
a little bit in the face of the demands that New Music makes
sometimes  for a constant stream of novelty and the reinven-
tion of oneself?

    That's  rather  a  loaded  question,  isn't   it?   Complete
    reevaluation  can't happen all the time unless you live in a
    vacuum.  If you're a modern person, that is simply not  pos-
    sible  to do.  Life is just too rich right now-with good and
    bad.  Don't you seem to get the idea that the artist  is  in
    more  and  more  places in society more and more times these
    days than maybe it  had  been-even  back  in  the  dreadful,
    awful, hippy days in the sixties?

I was young then, but it seems to me that you  weren't  ham-
pered by the same access to technology starting out when you
did that on one hand we really appreciate and on  the  other
really gets in the way of doing individual work.

It seems like my choices now  seem  more  constrained  than
yours  did back then.  The avant-garde that you were talking
about earlier has become the  Art  World  now.   In  a  way,
there's  nothng  quite  so well defined to rebel against and
draw one's energy from.

    Exactly correct.  I think about young people-that sounds  so
    condescending,  doesn't  it-people who are younger than I am
    who are trying to make work and make their own place in  the
    art world today suffer almost from a tyranny of information.
    There is simply so much out there.

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