Harold Budd and Jon Gibson in NYC: April 24, 1997

Harold Budd and Jon Gibson
in NYC: April 24, 1997

Harold Budd and Jon Gibson, two principle figures of ambient music and minimalism, played at the Merkin Concert Hall in NYC on Thursday, April 24, 1997. Budd is perhaps best known as a collaborator with Brian Eno and the Cocteau Twins, and his controversial work “Madrigals of the Rose Angel” (1972), performed by a topless female chorus, harp, percussion, celeste and lights. Gibson is a saxophonist/flautist who has played with all four “major” minimalist composers: Terry Riley, La Monte Young, Steve Reich, and Philip Glass.

Set List:

Gibson- CHROME I (1996; World premiere)
Budd- NOVE ALBERI (New York premiere; poem “The Butterfly” by Michael McClure)
Budd & Gibson- CUIDADES (1996; World Premiere)
Budd- MORE THAN THIS [the Roxy Music song]/ CAROUSEL AT THE END OF THE WORLD [Francesco Landini] (New York Premiere)
Budd & Gibson- FLAGS: Parallel Eagles-Jagged-Dance of the Cubes-Stan I- Stan II-Lambda Halved-Lambda Squared-A Rose It Isn’t-Pleasure [by Steven Brown]-The Night is Remiss- Parallel Eagles (World Premiere)
Budd- FRAGMENTS FROM “1000 CHORDS” (for John Foxx) (New York Premiere)
Gibson- MUCH ADO (World Premiere)
Budd & Gibson- CONSTELLATION OF SPIRES (World Premiere)

Gibson started the set out with “CHROME I”, a piece comprised primarily of merely five notes, with long, extended, hold-your-breath-till-it-hurts trills frenetically played on saxophone. His fingers could be heard audibly tapping the valves of the instrument, almost like a telegraph. Very interesting work.
Budd then came out and delivered “NOVE ALBERI”, a very haunting piece very reminiscent of Laurie Anderson’s work, with a pre-recorded backdrop and Budd’s sparse piano drifting unnoticably in and out of the atmosphere. Budd delivered the poem deep and dark, almost as if in a trance. Really captivating stuff.

The two came out and then played “CUIDADES”, a very simple work with Budd playing two ascending riffs (improvising each time by dragging out the spacing or by omitting notes), while Gibson played a beautiful some beautiful stuff over it.

Budd’s next piece, a combination of Bryan Ferry’s “More Than This” (so transformed as to be virtually unrecognizable) and Francesco Landini’s “Carousel at the End of the World” was a highlight of the evening: spritely and energetically delivered.

“FLAGS” was the evening’s crux, with many varied sections. “Parallel Eagles” was a broad ‘n’ brooding, legato piece while “Stan” had an upbeat, jazzy feel to it.

“FRAGMENTS from 1000 CHORDS” made heavy use of the Budd trademark: the “hazy”/”languid” chords (usually sevenths, ninths, augmenteds, diminisheds) that he executes masterfully on his most beautiful pieces.

“MUCH ADO” brough Gibson back on solo, for a wild performance of heavily echoed flute cadenzas.
The duo closed with “CONSTELLATION OF SPIRES”, another hauntingly beautiful piece to enamour the audience.

I really enjoyed the performance, and hope that some of this stuff, if it isn’t already, gets recorded (I think, though I could be wrong, that “Nove Alberi” is already on Budd’s latest studio album “LUXA”). One thing you took away from the performance was Budd’s us of spacing; listening to him play live, it gives the illusion that each note he plays has travelled a few light years to get from the piano to your ears! That’s seriously what it seemed like to me: watching a starry sky at nighttime.

After the show, I talked with him for a bit- he’s really a great guy, again (like Terry Riley, who I had seen maybe a month ago), very approachable, friendly, easy to talk to. If you do talk to him, however, be warned that he prefers not to shake hands (though someone else there did and he didn’t scowl at them or anything 😉 )-apparently, I think his left hand may be slightly injured (?). I asked him about his experiences with making “THE MOON AND THE MELODIES” album (with the Cocteau Twins), to which he said that he enjoyed making the album with them, though they went into it completely in the dark, not knowing what to do or expect; although he doesn’t consider it a perfect album, he’s overall happy with it (at least we both agreed that “Memory Gongs” was a great song! 🙂 )…and what were the Cocteau Twins like, I asked? “Oh, they are absolutely wonderful people! Totally unpretentious, no egos, or..you know…*none of that crap* !! Plus, she [Elizabeth Fraser] has an absolutely beautiful voice…” “Is Brian Eno like that, too?” “Oh yes, most definately…” (!!) 🙂

Joe McGlinchey
Sun, 27 Apr 1997

Note: I was at Harry Partch’s Oedipus across town so I missed this rare appearance by Harold Budd in NYC. Good thing Joe was there! This review originally appeared in the USENET newsgroups and appears here with the authors permission.


Originally published online at Juxtaposition Ezine.


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