There are few people less interested in the past than composer Harold Budd. As in his music, he is completely committed to the current moment, the joy of discovery, the pleasure of wandering down a road with no expectation of where it might lead. And if that road goes absolutely nowhere, that's fine, too.
Though his music doesn't resemble jazz in any traditional sense, Harold's dedication to improvisation is clearly cut from the same cloth, a by-product of his adolescent love for the form. But now, with more than 30 solo recordings and collaborations to his credit, he comes to view his space just so: 'I think in my middle age, I'm so comfortable with my own language, and have been so for so many years, that the music just falls out of me. What I do is very gestural. It can't be written down in advance, so it resembles jazz in that way.'
'But I'm a composer, not a performer. They are two different worlds altogether. I'm not even really a proper pianist. I'm forced into playing the piano because no one else quite does it this way.' And despite his penchant for letting things be as they want to be, 'I always go into the studio really, really prepared. I have 9 or 10 months of notes. I invariably have the titles first, which dictate the general mood of a piece. I work very hard every day to pull it together, until it looks like a coherent whole. The minute I start it all changes, a different dynamic takes over and I just go in that direction.'
Since his early work with Brian Eno, who has described Budd's music as 'lonely' (Harold doesn't argue), Budd's work has been called 'minimalist,' but that isn't quite right. 'I was never into classic minimalism, my brand came from a completely different ethic, partly (or largely?) because I was divorced from the NY art scene. I had my own particular West Coast version of that. I think minimalism isn't quite accurate. Once I found out the syntax of my language, I saw it differently. In any case, the only interest I have in minimalism is when it's architecture.'
In fact, Harold's new album, 'Avalon Sutra,' on David Sylvian's Samadhi Sound label is a complex work, with beautiful orchestrations. These include Budd's first string quartet compositions in over 30 years, of which he is 'shamelessly proud,' and they were the impetus for the entire album. 'Avalon Sutra' began when he first saw, in person, Billy Al Bengston's aluminum painting, 'Three Faces West.' The album also features the superb work of Budd's longtime friend, Jon Gibson, who contributes saxes and bass flute.
In addition to his solo work, Harold has collaborated with many great musicians, including Eno, Cocteau Twins, Hector Zazou, Andy Partridge, and Daniel Lanois. He thinks of himself as 'lucky to work with artists who I admire tremendously and can join in some pursuit that neither one of us would have thought up ourselves.'
His new album, 'Avalon Sutra,' is a work he is very, very fond of, one he considers perhaps his most personal record ever, though he can't quite determine why. As for the people who love his work, he says, 'if they come to it and embrace it, then I presume it's for the same reasons that I do, and that we have a kind of a bond. It's always my intention to make it as pretty as possible. Devastatingly pretty. That's it.'