Harold Budd, Ambient Composer and Cocteau Twins Collaborator, Dies at 84 of COVID-19

Budd also composed songs for films including HBO’s “I Know This Much is True”

Last Updated: December 8, 2020 @ 4:17 PM

Composer and musician Harold Budd, who gained acclaim for fusing genres including jazz, New Age and minimalism, died Tuesday at age 84.

Budd’s manager Steve Takaki told Rolling Stone that he died from “complications due to the coronavirus.”

Budd was a frequent collaborator of the Scottish dream-pop band the Cocteau Twins, and band member Robin Guthrie confirmed his passing in a Facebook post Tuesday, and called the sudden news “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,” Guthrie said. “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.”

Born in Los Angeles, Budd graduated with a music degree from the University of Southern California in 1966. Prior to his professional music career, he joined the U.S. Army as a drummer and marched alongside avant-garde saxophone musician Albert Ayler, who later became one of the leading figures in the free jazz movement.

After gaining acclaim as a professional musician, Budd moved to the United Kingdom (he was a self-confessed Anglophile despite living the majority of his adult life in the U.S.) and lived there between 1986 and 1991 — it was during this time that he met the Cocteau Twins. Guthrie and Budd released an album last week called “Another Flower.”

“It is with great sadness that we learned the passing of Harold Budd,” Cocteau Twins wrote on Facebook. “Rest in peace, poet of the piano.”

Two of Budd’s most well-known works are “Music for Airports,” and 1984’s “The Pearl.” He also composed music for films, most recently HBO’s “I Know This Much is True” as well as two films by director Gregg Araki: 2005’s “Mysterious Skin” and 2014’s “White Bird in a Blizzard.”

Budd produced an album in 1978 with Roxy Music co-founder Brian Eno, called “The Pavilion of Dreams.” He told The Guardian in 2014 that the album was “the birth of myself as a serious artist,” and added that working with Eno boosted his creativity and gave him “absolute bravery to go in any direction.”

“Pavilion of Dreams” was the first of several collaborations between Eno and Budd — they also worked together on “Ambient 2: The Plateaux of Mirror,” which was released in 1980.

Though he was known for his experimental and wildly unconventional works and often labeled as an ambient artist, Budd said he felt his music transcended the bounds of genre and resented being defined by any one label. “Being called something — anything — annoys the hell out of me,” Budd told The Guardian.