Harold Budd: She is a Phantom

She is a Phantom (1994)

by Harold Budd

Harold Budd, well known for collaborations with Brian Eno and the Cocteau Twins, writes simple and utterly gorgeous music. This album contains Harold Budd’s She Is a Phantom (1992), written for Zeitgeist, and In Delius’ Sleep (1974). On this recording, Budd joins the ensemble, playing piano and narrating his poetry.

Performers: Heather Barringer, Jay Johnson, Tom Linker, Bob Samarotto, Harold Budd (voice and piano).

“Released in 1994, this album features Budd performing original compositions with the contemporary music quartet Zeitgeist, a group who play woodwinds, keyboards, and percussion, including mallet instruments. Most of the album was written in 1991 at a time when Budd had returned to writing music for ensembles. While indulging in the minimalist aesthetics that epitomize his work, this album showcases his ideas in a different spectrum than his ambient albums. These 18 compositions average two to two-and-a-half minutes in length, some exploring one theme, others compacting two or three into the same time frame. Unlike many other minimalists, pianist/composer Budd does not belabor his points. She Is a Phantom is generally characterized by mellow tracks such as the ghostly haze of “Nearly Awakened.” But there are exceptions, including the gracefully spiraling clarinet melody over piano chords in the opening track and the eclectic “Like Perfume,” which segues between an abstract percussive tapestry, a clarinet solo, and a poetry reading accentuated by a marching snare. Four of the songs feature Budd reciting poetry, and the vocal inclusion is not intrusive, blending in with the musical backdrops. This album is perhaps one of Budd’s most cryptic works, particularly as some tracks melt into others. While not as easily accessible as many past efforts, it is a gratifying journey nonetheless. It just requires patience and open ears.” –Bryan Reesman

An American neo-classical composer who allied himself closely with the independent rock underground through his collaborations with Brian Eno, the Cocteau Twins’ Robin Guthrie, Andy Partridge of XTC, and many others, Harold Budd grew into a major figure of what would come to be called ambient music. His music, fashioned from sparse and tonal washes of keyboard treatments, was inspired by a boyhood spent listening to the buzz of telephone wires near his home in the Mojave Desert town of Victorville, California (though he was born in nearby Los Angeles).

Though interested in music from an early age, Harold Budd was 30, already married, and with children of his own by the time he graduated from the University of Southern California with a degree in musical composition in 1966. He became a respected name in the circle of minimalist and avant-garde composers based in Southern California during the late ’60s, and in 1970 began a teaching career at the California Institute of Arts. He was active as a composer, poet and recording artist until his death in 2020 due to complications from COVID-19. He was 84 years old.