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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 performance? 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 performance." 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 experience. 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 with.... 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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