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Ambient music pioneer and pianist Harold Budd dead at 84

Harold Budd in 2011
(Image credit: Steve Thorne / Getty Images)

Ambient music pioneer Harold Budd has died at the age of 84.

The news was confirmed in a Facebook post by Robin Guthrie of the Cocteau Twins, who collaborated with Budd on a number of releases.

"It is with great sadness that we learned of the passing of Harold Budd," wrote Guthrie. "Rest in peace, poet of the piano."

On his own page, Guthrie wrote (opens in new tab), "A lot to digest. Shared a lot with Harold since we were young, since he was sick, shared a lot with Harold for the last 35 years, period. Feeling empty, shattered lost and unprepared for this, as do my wife Florence and girls Violette and Lucy Belle. 

"All my best to Elise, Terrance, Hugo and all the family. His last words to me were 'adios amigo'. They always were. He left a very large 'Harold Budd'-shaped hole whichever way we turn."

Budd was born in Los Angeles in 1936, and studied music at the University of Southern California after leaving the army. He graduated in 1966 and became known for minimalist drone music influenced by indeterminate music composers John Cage and Morton Feldman. 

In 1972 he started work on the composition that eventually become the Brian Eno-produced album The Pavilion of Dreams, released in 1978. The pair also worked together on 1980’s Ambient 2: The Plateaux of Mirror, and on The Pearl four years later, also with Daniel Lanois.

He first collaborated with Robin Guthrie on the Cocteau Twins' 1986 album The Moon And The Melodies, and the two continued to work together. Their most recent album together, Another Flower, was released on Bandcamp earlier this month (opens in new tab).

Budd also collaborated with XTC’s Andy Partridge (on 1994's Through The Hill), Jah Wobble (on Solaris - Live In Concert in 2002), Ultravox’s John Foxx (Translucence/Drift Music, released in 2003), and on a series of albums with former Cock Robin guitarist Clive Wright.

Budd was last due to play in the UK in April 2018 – 13 years after curtailing touring activity in 2005 due to ill health – but the show was cancelled at the last minute.

"I wanted to be responsible for music that would change your life," Budd told LA Record (opens in new tab) in 2016. "That’s what I wanted. Nothing less than that. Because it changed my life, and it’s all I could do. I’m hopeless at everything else. I can’t drive a nail – I scarcely can drive a car, you know? I’m hopeless. But that I could do, and I love doing it, luckily for me. So that’s that."

Budd's manager, Steve Takaki, confirmed that the cause of death was complications due to the coronavirus.

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 36 years in music industry, online for 23. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.