Here’s a brief audio sample from Harold Budd’s Children on the Hill, the improvisatory piece I’m transcribing from a 1982 perfomance for reconstruction on our upcoming Minimalism conference. At 23 minutes in length, it’s a completely different piece than his eponymous performance on the old Obscure CD. The beginning and end were easy to transcribe, but in the middle of the piece is a wildly rhapsodic wash of arpeggios that goes on for 13 minutes. I can slow down the soundfile to catch all the notes, but slowing down also blurs the note attacks, and makes low notes in particular less distinct. So what I end up doing is transcribing the general outlines as far as I can at normal speed, slowing down to 50 or 60 percent to catch all the treble arpeggios, then slowing that down another 50 percent to decipher grace notes and disentangle rippling arppeggios, then listening to the whole thing sped up again – which often reveals mistaken rhythms as well as mis-heard bass notes. Of course, it’s not just normal piano, but piano played through an Eventide Harmonizer, which blurs the notes and makes them sound like they’re sustained or played again, which doesn’t make transcription any easier. I’d say I’ve been spending at least three hours on every minute of the recording, and I’ve got seven minutes left to go. Below is my transcription (so far) of the passage above. Of course, rhythms are kind of a humorous fiction in a rapidly improvised passage like this, so the pianist (Sarah Cahill) will have to ignore the meter, play in an unmeasured rush of excitement, and listen to the original recording to try to capture the original expression. Next to this, the transcription work I did on The Well-Tuned Piano was a piece of cake, but Harold’s music is so beautiful that it’s going to be totally worth it.