Home Entertainment Harold Budd, Composer of Spaciousness and Calm, Dies at 84

Harold Budd, Composer of Spaciousness and Calm, Dies at 84

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John Cage exerted an influence, though less for his music than for his ideas and his courage in forging a career outside of the academy. Works like “Magnus Colorado” (1969) and the 24-hour “Lirio” (1971) involved reverberant gongs and controlled lighting, fusing Mr. Budd’s compositional ideas with his interests in visual art and installation. For “The Oak of the Golden Dream” (1970), Mr. Budd used the Buchla Box, an early synthesizer, to pair an unwavering bass drone with an incantatory treble melody, in a manner reminiscent of Terry Riley’s early works.

Gripped by a growing sense of sterility in the classical avant-garde while teaching composition at the California Institute of the Arts from 1970 to 1976, Mr. Budd retreated from public work; privately, he explored the unambiguous melodic simplicity he found in medieval and Renaissance music.

His composition “Madrigals of the Rose Angel” (1972) marked the birth of his mature style. A recording of the piece reached Mr. Eno, whose own thinking about music, listening and atmosphere was coalescing into what he would term “ambient” music — one of many labels, including “New Age,” that Mr. Budd resisted. “I just have utterly no interest in that sort of thing,” he said of such categorizing in a 2014 interview with The Guardian.

Despite the break with past work, some essence of Mr. Budd’s early influences remained. “The Pavilion of Dreams” featured the alto saxophonist Marion Brown, a colleague of John Coltrane. It included the hymn “Let Us Go Into the House of the Lord,” in an arrangement inspired by that of the Coltrane acolyte Pharoah Sanders, and “Butterfly Sunday,” a reworking of Coltrane’s “After the Rain.” Other collaborators on the album included the English experimental composers Michael Nyman and Gavin Bryars.

From that point, and especially after “Ambient 2: The Plateaux of Mirrors,” Mr. Budd charted a course that rarely wavered, yet accommodated abundant variety and discovery. He performed alone and with groups, recorded with poets and wrote poetry of his own, and made two albums of improvisations with the video artist Jane Maru.

Mr. Budd is survived by two sons, Matthew and Terrence, from his first marriage, to Paula Katzman; and by another son, Hugo, from his marriage to Ellen Wirth, who died in 2012. Mr. Budd’s brother and stepsister died before him. He lived in South Pasadena, Calif.

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