This year the PuSh Festival has relocated Club PuSh, its cabaret venue and social hub, from Performance Works on Granville Island to the recently renovated Fox Cabaret on Main Street. Among other things, this means that Richard and I can now walk to the venue, whence we repaired last night to see Harold Budd. I confess that I did not know the work of this avant-garde American composer and poet until Richard introduced me to his work upon seeing his name listed in this year's festival line-up. That said, anyone who is a fan of contemporary electronic music will have heard Budd's "ambient influence." Suffice to say that there would be no Moby without Harold Budd.
Having grown up in the Mojave desert, Budd's sound is at once spare and lush, coloured with layered melodies that on Budd's synthesizer wash over one like a time-lapse of shifting cloudscapes in the sky. Knowing we didn't need to see the stage to experience last night's standing room-only performance, Richard and I chose to grab a table in the Fox's intimate balcony lounge. There, at the back and uppermost reaches of the house, the notes of Budd and fellow keyboardist Bradford Ellis merged and dissolved in a sensory experience of sound diffusion that might have been indistinguishable from an acousmatic music presentation but for the fact that Club PuSh co-curator and local singer/songwriter/spoken word artist Veda Hille was also intoning excerpts from Budd's most recent collection of poetry, Aurora Tears. Hille's timing and delivery (holding on to a sibilant "s" here to extend a feeling of regret, punctuating a line there as a guard against such sentiment) reminded one that this performance was resolutely embodied, from the trademark "softness" of Budd's foot on his keyboard pedal, to Hille's exhalation of breath as she spoke her lines, to the hushed stillness of the entire audience as we soaked in from every open pore all that we were hearing.
Indeed, I was reminded just how much listening is a whole body experience when Richard and I both jolted forward in our seats in a simultaneous moment of recognition at Hille's reciting of a specific geographical locale embedded in Budd's poetry: Castellain Road, Maida Vale, London. Our good friend Cathy lives on that street, one we've traversed often, and one of whose intersecting byways (Pindock Mews) we've likewise had the uncanny experience of hearing pronounced live in performance (in a production of Tony Kushner's Homebody/Kabul at the Young Vic in 2002, with Cathy in attendance). It's not often that the live event that so transports one imaginatively and affectively can also do so geographically, but for Richard and I we've now experienced just this kind of travel in and through performance twice.