LOUIS HARDIN
"MOONDOG"        
                          1916- 1999
Prog Folk-Folkrock-Acid Folk
Prog Folk-Folkrock-Acid Folk
CMoondog walked like this,
  in New York in 1956
  with his self-made clothes.



WHO WAS MOONDOG ?

A few sources will answer this question for me..

Moondog was a very in balance unique (real) 'fusion' artist with self-made instruments, classical compositions, and a great feeling for complex rhythms. He created music without being limited by any time's perspective.

* http://www.geocities.com/moondogmadness/

His father was a protestant missionary who visited more often clans from Indians and that's how Louis came into contact at an early stage with their rhythms.

In 1974 he was invited by the Hessischen Rundfunks (local television from Hessen, part of Germany) for two concerts. He will find a stay in Germany after that, and it seemed Amerika had forgotten him, untill the New Music America Festival in 1989. The magazine People said then : "New York has something to howl again- legendary Moondog is back".

moondogmail@yahoo.com

* Another very specialised one with lots of pictures is (I used 3 of them here) : http://www.moondogscorner.de/
(with pages about anything interesting about Moondog).

* A list of still more or less available albums you can find at : http://oldies.about.com/entertainment/oldies/li...moondogdisc.htm
(more detailed list at first address)

* Here you can also find a resume of his life :
Read about Moondog in the Early Years
Read about Moondog in the '50s and '60s
Read about Moondog in the '70s

* A general  portrait you can find at : http://www.l-m-c.org.uk/texts/moondog.html& http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moondog 

* A another page with small reviews at http://www.kneeling.co.uk/pages/moondog/default.asp

* An extra rare picture from the fifties of his and the cover of  "Moondog and his friends" you can find at : http://www.therefrigerator.net/music/music5.html 
An article with weird picture from 1970 by Steve Knowlton from Upstate
Magazine, February 22 : http://www.therefrigerator.net/music/music6.html
A recent Moondog interview from 1998 with recent picture, and Moondog's favourite music you can read at  : www.furious.com/perfect/moondog.html
Less important sources are :
A short review from his life and a picture from the second album (1956) you can see at : www.elvispelvis.com/louishardin.htm                   
You can listen to some samples at: www.3w-musik.de/Moondog.htm and at www.jpc-music.com/6995153.htm    and at : http://www.jazz-neuheiten.de/5746921.htm       

* Music annotations from "The Common Calender" you can see at : http://furious.com/perfect/moondog2.html         

* About Moondog's method of drumming there's an interesting page at : http://hem.spray.se/stefanlakatos/           

BUT WHAT DO I THINK OF MOONDOG'S IMPORTANCE ? (written in 2001)

People will not have doubt now Moondog was an enigma. His first album has very serious music (piano, chamber orchestra) combined with animal noises, almost Japanese singing, a dance rehearsal, complex rhythms on strange self-made instruments , ending with a real NY street scene with his usual playing but also performing a wisdom inspired theatre play. His second album from 1956 is completely outside every time and space limitation. He uses self-made instruments in very complicated rythms, combines this with street noises, animal noises, wisdom words thrown in the streets of New York, combines sounds from a boat with a bamboo whistle and so on, but also classical inspired and very Japanese like melodies are being recorded there. A not to miss artifact.

His second but even more the third album delves more into complicated rhythms  on his self made instruments like the oo (triangular stringed instrument)  trimbas (triangular-shaped drum) and tuji (mounted sticks). These albums are still highly recommended.

His comeback in the seventies with Moondog and Moondog II are strange and seriously meant albums. The first one is orchestral work with added percussion. I once found this album in the waste sold out records from a collector shop ! How could they ! Moondog 2 are small rondo's and I like the mood in it very much which is pretty and happy. A very underestimated album from his.

Later Moondog recorded some albums for the German label Kopf Records. Like most of his albums every one of them has a different atmosphere. A New Sound for an old instrument is most unique a combination of rhythms with organ, and even organ is being seen as an instrument there that can produce some magical rhythms. 'In Europe' is his most dark and is a less accessible album. H'art songs are songs at his old and sage age, speaking of a separated but very reflective world. Some of the songs possess humour :

"Enough about human rights. What about Wale rights ? What about snail rights ? What about seal rights ? What about eel rights ?"

His most sage words came most spontaneously on the albums before that.

Last years he was also busy with big bands. I heard some of it which reminded me somewhat of each other.

On Sax Pax for Sax he played this time a much more simple rhythm, almost like a heartbeat, a bit in the way the old Yahowha 13 played in rhythm control with his musicians. And only from then on I could notice he became older.

I hope some more people will get access to hear Moondog at least once in his life.

A last anecdote :
The third album cover "The story of.."was designed by Andy Warholl's mother !

I will end with a grading of the earier reissued albums I have ( -purely graded as if it were just records of anybody unknown-)  :

Prestige      Moondog (1956)                                             *****
Prestige      More Moondog (1956)                                     *****
Prestige      The story of Moondog (1957)                           ****°
CBS           Moondog (1969)                                              ***°°
CBS           Moondog 2 (1971)                                           ****°
Knopf Rec.  Moondog in Europe (1978)                                ***°'
Knopf Rec.  Moondog : H'art Songs (1979)                           **°°'
Knopf Rec.  Moondog : A new sound for an old instrument (1991)  ****°
Knopf Rec.  Moondog : Elpmass (1991)                                       ****°
Knopf Rec.  Moondog & The London Saxophonic :
  Sax Pax for a sax (1994)          ****'
BMG           Moondog : Big Band (199?)                                      **°?

a bit more about "Sax Pax.." you can find at : http://music9.hypermart.net/...
a review from this album you can find at : http://www.ink19.com...

The newer reissues I reviewed on this page. review 1, review 2, LP, review 3 ->

An E-magazine with reviews from Moondog's albums you can find at : http://www.leisuresuit.net/Webzine/articles/moondog_obit.shtml        
a choreography-piece based upon music from Moondog 1 was once published at  http://abt.org/no_javascript/archives/ballets/moondance.html  

If you're curious to what some other old wise men made, see at the pages from Wulf Zendik, and from Ya Ho Wha 13.

review cd 1, cd 2, cd 3, cd 4, cd 5, cd 6, review book+cd

Moondog 1, 1969
Moondog 2, 1970
Moondog A new Sound of an old instrument LP-version
Moondog's A new Sound of an old instrument CD-version
Moondog's H'art Songs LP-version
Moondog's H'art Songs CD-version
Moondog in New York : "I don't dress to track attention, I track attention because I'm dressed as I do."
some covers, links + personal intro,
review cd 1, cd 2, cd 3, cd 4, cd 5
review book+cd, past lecture, videos

interpretations by V.A.,, Kenny Graham and His Sattelites, Xenia Narati
OES, Hobocombo CD1 & CD2, Quakers & Mormons, Sylvain Rifflet & Jon Irabagon
Moondogs CornerMoondog : Pastoral Suite / Surf Session EP (US,1953)****°

This is a limited ed. 500 mini-LP cover reissue CD of Moondog’s earliest release from 1953, originally a 7’ EP. It was originally recorded at the Spanish Music Center in New York City. No need to tell you this very individual musician was way ahead his time perspective and must have looked pretty weird with his self-designed clothes, playing his self-designed instruments on the streets of New York. This recording predates all earlier releases. The CD from the Prestige LP Moondog from 1956 showed a varied composer, with piano and orchestrated pieces, background noises and sounds (which was unusual to use as part of the composition), rhythmic skills etc. This mini-LP/CD wasn’t too different.
These are 6 somewhat minimal-to-the essence pieces of around 1’40. “Pastoral Suite” with "Before The Storm", "The Storm", and "After the Storm", show a little bit more than the 1956 release where Moondog had his inspiration from. His child experience to play the powwow with the native Indians you can “feel” throughout the pieces. His Japanese wife must have given him some other ideas in use of dulcimer-like instrument playing. The use of environmental sounds, of complex rhythms might have been just an example of his own creative exploration genius. On the “Surf Session” side, “Snaketime Rhythms” with the sea in the background, and a sea boat whistle, mixed with complex rhythms and harp-like strings is meditative and fresh at the same time. Where Alice Coltrane, in a follow up of her husband, tried somewhat intuitively, new roads with her harp strings, Moondog, compared to Alice Coltrane sounds already in a different state of consciousness when making this track. “Duet” with his wife (with the same sea shore background) sounds like a mixture of Japanese and native Indian celebrative music. Last track, "Recorded Soliloquy", is a flute improvisation, for me a kind of duet with the sea shore atmosphere. Highly recommend !

Other audio : "Before the storm","Duet"
Info with audio : http://www.moondogscorner.de/shop/
Moondogs Corner   Moondog : The Viking of Sixth Avenue (US,compilation 1949-1995)****°

A very good starter and well compiled tasty overview of Moondog's work, with first more focus on his early, short, rhythmically driven arranged ideas. Also shown in various tracks is his jazz corner influence. His classical influence gets less attention, but still is present, especially with "Chaconne in G major", a classical piece with powow rhythm, and with "Oasis" (second version) as the only included organ piece example, mixed with his typical rhythms.

Moondog had created many instruments to express himself, like the trimba (a triangular drum), the oo (triangular stringed instrument), yukh (a log suspended from a tripod, hit with two rubber mallets), tuji (mounted sticks of graduated lengths). Some influences include besides classical music and jazz, native Indian drumming, and Japanese music. Since the late 1940's, he also used environmental sounds in his recordings.

Audio : "Lament 1 'Birds Lament' ", "Oasis", "Enough About Human Rights", "Invocation", "Theme and Variations", "Down is Up", "Bumbo"
& http://www.juno.co.uk/products/193872-01.htm
Info : http://www.spincds.com/old/moondog2005.html
3 audiotracks with review : http://www.boomkat.com/item.cfm?id=19343
Reviews : http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=19337
& http://www.phonicarecords.co.uk/detail.aspx?ID=8926
Article : http://www.metroactive.com/papers/sonoma/03.22.06/moondog-0612.html
Epic Moondog : Moondog And his Friends -LP- (US,1953)***°'

The original liner notes of the full LP :

The music in this collection constitutes a series of tonal pictures with new sound variations and new tempo variations. The composer, and primary performer, is the tall, bearded musician, familiar to Manhattanites, by the name of Moondog. Although some of the melodies, and some of the tempi, are immediately congenial, their full flavor comes out on repeated listenings. This is complex music, with a sophistication that belies its seeming simplicity. Repeated hearings bring out further interesting combinations of sound, other subtleties of rhythm. Moreover, for all its apparently experimental technique, it is solidly grounded in classical forms, the most common being the round.
Moondog was born Louis Hardin, in Marysville, Kansas, and grew up in the west, where the percussion instruments of Indian tribes fascinated the boy. A chief named Yellowcalf taught him much about the manipulation of the instruments. When he was sixteen Moondog lost his sight, but took up the study of music at a school for the blind, learning theory as well as such instruments as the violin and viola. In 1943 he moved to Manhattan and began developing his own theory of music - sometimes referred to as "snaketime," because of its undulating sound - but went west again in 1948, to Arizona, studying again with the Indians. A year later he returned to New York, and began playing his unique instruments - many of his own construction and arrangement - on street corners.
This may seem a difficult way to propound a musical theory, but before long his ideas were seized upon by ranking professional musicians, who were fascinated by both the music and the musician. Particularly in the environs of Carnegie Hall are his theories respected, and in this collection many of the stringed instruments, the violi and 'celli, are played by members of the Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra of New York. Perhaps the surest way to get at the heart of the music is to listen to it. These recordings, featuring Moondog, represent some of his finest compositions, and some of his most ingratiting ideas.

Dragon's Teeth: This number serves to introduce the trimba, a series of ten drums, triangular in shape, used in graduated sizes. Here the various rhythms of snaketime are introduced, beginning with 1/8 and moving up to 9/8. In the background, the composer's wife may be heard on the oo, a triangular instrument that sounds somewhat like a harp.
Voices of Spring: This is a short rhapsody of sound, using a background of sparrow's voices. Moondog recites a brief quotation on nature, and then plays a freely organized theme on the recorder.
Oasis: The coloring of this selection is predominantly that of Asia Minor, with a fascinating rhythm background. The instrumentation consists of piano, violin, the dragon's teeth (or trimba), the maracas and the uni. The uni is a seven-stringed instrument that can be plucked like a harp, struck with a mallet, like a piano, or played with a bow. It is this instrument that provides the provocative twanging sound. The violin and piano parts, incidentally, are played by two of the country's best young concert artists.
Tree Frog: This is an attempt to recreate in music the song of tree frogs in spring. A descriptive piece, its unique sound is produced by tapping the fingers against the openings of a recorder, with the microphone close-up. No air passes through the recorder in this unusual instance of a wind instrument used percussively.
Be a Hobo: This short song is a vocal round, with the composer singing both vocal lines. Here, as in most of the other selections, the counterpoint is evident. The melody itself, like most of Moondog's materials, is unpretentious, serving as a springboard, so to speak, for his metric experimentation, but nevertheless has a charming, sweet line that carries the music forward.
Instrumental Round: This is an experiment in orchestration, using strings, brass, woodwinds and percussion. All instruments are played by the composer himself, using tape recording.
Double Bass Duo: The genesis of this composition reflects the free, eclectic spirit of much of the music in this collection: the composer, having just bought himself a double bass, found himself locked out of the studio, and to pass the time began experimenting with its sounds. The thematic material evolved, then presented itself as a duet, and he promptly recorded it. The drum and both basss parts are played by the composer.
Why Spend the Dark Night with You?: Another of Moondog's compositions in the form of a round. His intention is to leave the meaning of the lyrics to the listener; often, he finds, more is read into the words than he intended.
Theme and Variations: On a four-note theme Moondog here builds one of his most ambitious orchestrations, using more than twenty voices played by himself. An interesting note on the percussion techniques: while playing the drums, he wore gloves with the finger-tips pulled slightly out, giving the extra dimension to the tone.
Rim Shot: This is a study in 5/4 time, example of acceleration in music. The work is scored for percussion only.
Both Suite No. 1 and Suite No. 2 are written in the twelve-tone chromatic scale used by the Vienese masters, such as Beethoven and Brahms. The classic tonal structure is used to evolve a five part invertible counterpoint. The Suites are parallel compositions; No. 1 is written in a minor-major-minor sequence, and No. 2 in a major-minor-major sequence. Moreover, the times of the correspoding movements are the same in both suites. Each movement is in canon form, separate thematically from its companion movements.
Suite No. 1: The instrumentation here consists of dragon's teeth drums (with gloves), two violi three celli and a set of five temple blocks. Throughout the entrances of the strings is in this order: 'cello, viola', 'cello, viola' and finally 'cello'. The first movement is in 7/4 time, the second in 5/2 and the third, where the composer's wife may be heard on the Japanese drums, is in 7/8.
Suite No. 2: The first movement here reverts to the initial instrumentation of the first Suite, and to the 7/4 time. The second movement, adding the woodblocks, temple blocks and claves mounted on a frame, is in 5/2 time. The final movement, again in 7/8, presents another new and intriguing instrument, the tuji. This is a sort of board with dowels mounted in rows. The dowels are fingered swiftly by the player, producing an unusual percussive sound.


Honest Jon's Rec.    Moondog : Moondog And his Friends 10" (US,1953)****°
Moondogs CornerMoondog : Moondog And his Friends 2006 (US,1953/1987/2005)****°

The original LP on Epic (EPIC LG 1002) has been carefully restored and remastered for this CD reissue, and the sound of the reissue is remarkably good. The album had found already a 10" reissue before. Also added on the CD were three bonus tracks of three dedicated people who recorded some Moondog's music between 1987 and 2005.

One must realize how Moondog must have learned music from native Indians, that his wife was Japanese (which might have had some influence too), and that he studied classical music. His ideas compiling the basics of different origins resulted in a series of self built instruments with a specific personal sound. Rhythm and sound seems to be more important foundations than the melody which caries. Some ideas are repeated from a core centre of sound and rhythm, but still reveal an open form, which makes the used rondo forms, like timeless areas, in which the circular forms also contains some spiral evolution pattern (just listen to “Dragon’s Teath”). On “Oasis” we hear how rhythmic layers are brilliantly and freshly combined with classical chamber variations (piano, strings). “Tree Frog” sounds like an improvisation on someone’s teeth in combination with wood or attached raw string, but actually, more remarkable, this is a percussive track on a recorder while playing it!! The short “double bass duo” theme gives a new droning perspective of a bass overload sound. These kind of short ideas come and go very quickly. There’s even so much new happening in a short time that the album and even each track just demands a repeated listen, something which is much more easy with a cd. Short themes with lyrics, rhythmical excursions, classical exploitations follow each other quickly. The main piece is a classical music suite in 2 parts, with the right intervals of complex rhythmic structures and percussion (written in 7/4, 5/2 and 7/8), with some variations of mood, of which Bach might have been an influence here and there. I am sure a few more listens will reveal much more to me.

The three additional tracks are by people who learned to play Moondog’s music and gave it some time to give it some special meaning to their lives. Stefan Lakatos was a pupil of Moondog. He plays a 7/8 rhythmical track, but strangely enough plays 4/4 on handshakers, so don’t use here the full meaning of complex interwoven vividness of what happens in Moondog’s compositions, is a much lighter version. It is played on the original trimba, one of Moondog’s instruments. Second track is a Moondog organ piece played by Paul Jordan, an organist who had played organ pieces with Moondog before. Last track is by Xenia Narati on harp, who, since 2003, plays Moondog’s music with her ensemble. This also shows a different, more modern times spirit making a good closer for the album.

Audio :  "Oasis", (or here), "Themes And Variations-Rim Shot", "Suite No. 1 (1st, 2nd & 3rd Movement)","Suite No. 2 (1st, 2nd & 3rd Movement)", "Tree Frog - Be A Hobo", "Suite No. One Third Movement"  
Info : http://www.moondogscorner.de/shop/
or for LP : http://moondogscorner.de/disco/rec3.htm
http://www.honestjons.com/shop.php?pid=28333
& http://www.geocities.com/moondogmadness/moondog_and_his_friends.html
Descriptions : http://www.forcedexposure.com/labels/moondogs.corner.germany.html
& http://www.squidco.com/...

Additional musicians from the bonus tracks :
Stefan Lakatos : http://www.stefanlakatos.de
Paul Jordan : http://moondogscorner.de/disco/rec25.htm
Xenia Narati : http://www.xenia-narati.de/tribute CD->
Trace Label V.A. : Un Hommage a Moondog, a tribute by..(var,2006)**°°

Many tribute cd’s have in their compilation of artists some people who understand the spirit of the dedicator, and show something of this spirit, even when shown from a different world or perspective. Then there are others who only take minor elements like tunes or melodies, but forget the spirit, or only half understand it, and were not really that much affected by it. Then there might also be a few parasites who take a tribute as a personal occasion to promote their music, without showing much significance. The best tribute cd’s are compiled by those who only accept the first kind of results.
I have the impression that the label themselves took the opportunity to promote a few artists, with a hope they should take such an advantage of an occasion completely seriously, and also asked Moondogscorner which artist whould give the most successful results. This means most music is somewhat interesting, holds itself more or less together, but we still have all three mentioned categories, no matter if the music is good or not.

In between the tracks, a few fragments from an interview with Moondog are added, giving extra insight into the man, and also a few street poems, narrated rather quickly.

There is no doubt that the essence of Moondog is clearly adapted and mixed with their own personality, by Stefan Lakatos, who was not only a pupil of Moondog, but who also plays his original instruments, and Xenia Narrati, who also had a full tribute cd, and had some lifetime dedicated to Moondog, something which leaves of course its clear marks (In my radioshow I said : "Xenia Narrati’s music sound as if it is warmed up like some wind up mechanical music
instruments.") If you really listen carefully enough to Moondog it should change your perspectives on music. Also a nice tribute is Guillaume Loizillon’s “tribal tribute” (in my radioshow I said : "Guillaume captures well the spirit of some essential element in the rhythm, of Moondog, (with piano) and takes it back to a tribal association, while leaving it classically inspired"). David Fench, seemed to have been honestly haunted by the melody of  “all is loneliness”, and plays his own, modest version. Jean Jacque Birgé combines harp, flute, loop glockenspiel, tape recording, and takes something of Moondog into a new modern mixing world, and is a fine attempt to do so. Also Konki Duet’s vocal rondo sounds like an honest tribute to me. This is comparable to the result of the last track by Production de l’invisible who makes a convincing enough theatre poetry based vocal interpretation based upon Moondog’s music. Although a bit far away from Moondog, Joseph Racaille’s piece with a loose medieval feeling, and with references to a different local regional subject, played by flutes and percussion, still fits nicely. Then we also have a few attempts which take the modern music world vision as their fundament, to such a degree this area is already of a different character compared to Moondog, but this does not mean this approach cannot be tried. Dragibus’s kind of remix into alternative pop sounds ok to me. Less acceptible I think is the use of disturbing noise, electronic sounds, with sounds as if from stone and iron, with electro-acoustic foundations like by Group D'Essai 3, because this is more disturbing in the Moondog context, because Moondog who has his origins in 19th century music and with ethno flavoured melodic and rhythmic and also with an inspirational purity of sounds and compositions ; in that case any factor of leading chaos and noise cannot fit with it at all. Also Pusse's track seems to fail any essence of Moondog’s music. Also ruthless “stealing” of samples of recordings to do just a chaotic remix, like by Samon Takahashi I am sure would have offended the master when it would have been done when he was standing next to this. The  few pieces with references to the folktronica genre can still convince me because of the same amount of rhythm and balanced sound exploration, with Mami Chan as one of the better examples, in a more Japanese softpop style (-In my radioshow I said : "Mami Chan gives Moondog’s music a new meaning, and made this bedroom pop lullaby, a free musical box inspiration."- followed by Norman Bambi who with his own humour said he left out the “moon” aspect because he will never go to the moon, and left the “dog” over ; the way he arranges guitar and computer rhythmic remixes was able to capture something of Moondog’s spirit for this modern world, and lastly, Jean Jacques Birgé. A bit more simplistic in approach is the Ilitch track, and Laurent Saïet also did a mix in a modern style. Then we have a few recordings which hardly have any association with Moondog. Hervé Zénouda is post-minimalism could recall the fact that Moondog had just a few rather minimalist pieces, but with a title like “a man on the moon” it is clear how little this has any reference to the original spirit of Moondog. 

Even when the compilation is not a completely successful tribute to Moondog in all degrees, much of the music on its own, with varied interests, can be interesting to hear. Also for the real Moondog fan there will be some very nice surprises. A more consistent compilation into one style, like for instance folktronica, or classical could have been a little bit more satisfying to use for repeated listens.

Audio : Stefan Lakatos : "Snaketime Rattle"(or here), Les Productions de L'Invisible : "Ceux Qui Inventment", Moondog : "Interview: I Had A Dog", Guillaume Loizillon : "Tribal Tribute"  & http://www.tracelab.com/...
& Ilitch : "Dogmood" on http://www.ilitchmusic.com/01pages/music/disco.htm
Info : http://www.tracelab.com/03page/artiste/moondog.htm (from http://www.tracelab.com/)
& http://demosaurus.free.fr/fenech/disco/cd/moondog.htm

Some contributors :
* Markus Muench : http://www.markusmuench.com/
* Stefan Lakatos : http://stefanlakatos.de
* David Fenech : http://demosaurus.free.fr/
* The Konki Duet : http://www.thekonkiduet.com/
* Dragibus : http://www.dragibus.jp/
* Xenia Narati : http://www.xenia-narati.de/xenia-narati.html
* Ilitch : http://www.ilitchmusic.com/
* Mami Chan : http://perso.orange.fr/doowop/biomami.html
* Norman Bambi : http://www.myspace.com/normannorman
* Les Productions de L'Invisibles : http://www.lesinvisibles.com
Process BookRobert Scotto : Moondog -book + cd- (US,2008)****°

I needed a long time to read this extensive, well written, in depth biography of Moondog. It gave me a revealing insight in the connections between the personal circumstances, the time’s contexts, as well as other influences on Moondog’s personality and psychology, and the relation to how he composed and performed music over the years. The book still was for me, a foreigner to English language, not always easy to comprehend every detail, because once in a while it use local references in language, or used clever word connections in describing a turmoil of connections, from which I also missed enough understanding of its local or time contexts to fully grab the whole context which has been grasped in words. An example of a moment of such a resuming insight like the next fragment might also ask a common reader for close attention and previous insight and background of situations, -describing the circumstances in the 60s, first with great accuracy, following by one of these more difficult sentence that tends to grab even more:

“To place Moondog accurately, one must remember the froth of the 1960s;the shiny patina, the nervous gesture, the dramatic over-response. In other words, while it brought forth much authentic, constructive activity, and generated an effective, muscular outrage at government arrogance, it also pandered as no period before it to the American teenager, fixing an unanchored idealism and skewed scale of significance into the national paranoia. One of the more predictable reactions by prosperous citizens to internal problems that dwarf exterior threats is to glorify self-awareness, to examine quirks and tics so closely that what in more tranquil times is background and trivial acquires gravitas and centrality. When many thought a revolution in consciousness was imminent, some of the energy for reform dissipated rather than crystallized; self-contemplation had slipped into solipsism. The Great Society died in the vice of the Nixon years. The Vietnam War ended through Kissinger’s cynical shuttle diplomacy. Camelot° turned into Watergate.”   (°ie.the Kennedy years)

A lot of background in a few sentences and a descriptive, for me almost poetic and dramatic language! In other words : the book does not stop at Moondog but reveals also each movement in his environment, while Moondog himself, steady as a rock, could remain with his strength intact, something the writer might possible secretly admire the most.

What I of course also learned from Moondog is that he spontaneously, with his own personal quest, came back to a previous state of mind in man, who is alone in the world, (who made his own clothes too by the way), and has to stand firm and strong like a warrior, as a spiritual consciousness, which pretty much kept him safe and sound over the hardest years.

I should not give away each detail in the book, but I also learned how Moondog in his childhood never found peace at home, for he was dragged from one place to the next, and also experienced on many occasions, betraying trust. His father, a preacher, a rebel in essence, failed to convince him with his contradictory morals in beliefs. All this led to feed the mind of a free wanderer with no real home. Each detail of his personality seemed to have come forward from survival’s necessity, from his self-made clothes to start with, perhaps slightly associated with native Indians at first, to his becoming a street musician (which he also was able to endure well, because as a kid he had experienced harsh cold circumstances). On this spot he had formed his safe haven not larger than a square, equal to a minimal mathematical square of measures related to his own consciousness. Also his clothes and instruments became squares and also his compositions could be related into this minimalist condition. When people started to see the bearded blind man as Christ, he felt forced to go to other and also deeper more suitable essences and roots in America, for he felt that these Christian associations were merely misguided failures that had absorbed and neglected older pasts. From then on, he became the Viking, referring to his Nordic roots, and he worked out and researched the historical connections with it, seeking deeper roots related to Vikings. For this faith of his own he had his own altar dedicated to Thor. All his gestures and poses were mostly related to survival ways that could help him to trace and keep his own dignity intact. His helmet, by the way, also kept him, as a blind man, from unexpected obstacles above the ground, so that it gave him even more confidence, and it wasn’t too bad when people could recognize him as the Viking now on the streets of New York. Robert Scotto associates with this costume a looking for attention as there was an underlying need that he would one day be recognised in his own right by his parents. His first wife will have developed with him some of the Japanese music associations. Besides falling back on himself more than once, (“all is loneliness”),  and often deliberately too, when seeking for a better common ground, he most often had many friends who helped him throughout his life tremendously.

Thanks to the book I realize better now why Moondog’s music was formed the way it was. The first period can be seen as the street performer period where he couldn’t do anything else but fall back on his small spot on the streets. There were only needed a few basic patterns to remember, the development of rhythmical skills, the ear to sounds and the live now-feeling for circumstances. Within this period the desire to compose something with it, was there, which first had no other option than to arrange this same minimalist and limited world into a classical composer’s world, driven by the desire that this would prove him as a composer. On the compositions on the first CBS recording (199) the desire to be taken seriously as a composer who respected tradition was even more important than the option to write free new music. This orchestrated album with rhythms was much more a proof for himself to become and belong as a worthy composer against the classical composers, a reason why this piece in essence is not too much different from these composers except in detail, and why it didn’t unfold his abilities as a real composer yet. Moondog 2 however made his conclusion to the street music period, with perfect arrangements for it. It was not until his European period where he was able to settle down and start to compose freely. I am still amazed by the overtone pieces on Elpmass, which turned him finally into a new music composer that he ever was before. He also never neglected his admiration for jazz, something which led to other projects in his later years.

The book gives light and breaths depth and new understandings to the oeuvre of Moondog, and reveals for me pretty much the why and hows behind his musical expression while showing also pretty well the man behind it, and his personal evolution towards perfection. Recommended lecture.

The CD :

First there are 8 tracks taken randomly from his 1953 recordings, all which have been reissued on CD before (but perhaps no longer available right now). Further we have an occasional home recorded session of tracks with friends Philip Glass, Steve Reich and Jon Gibson, a happy but loose and simple friendship sing-along gathering. Then there’s one of his organ pieces taken from the previously published CD, plus 6 unreleased rather mathematical and somewhat Bach-inspired baroque organ canons played by Paul Jordan. There are also three pieces played by follower Stefan Lakatos who plays Moondog’s rhythms not as a composer, but for his own enjoyment. There are also a few pieces from the later sax related album, besides a few other pieces taken from a few other albums working as other references.

Knowing Moondog’s reissues well, and when considering the depth the book provided, the additional CD didn’t show for me the best imaginable resume of Moondog’s talent, even when certain essential references are there (for the insider), it also reveals something of a limited range he had also shown during certain periods. Besides also, I think there might not have been permission to include something from the CBS-related albums, which also are anchoring essential albums, with Moondog 2 as one of my favourites, a still underestimated work which presents the maximum joy and most full arrangements made from the minimalist street memorisations, making from limitations something joyful and happy, it also is a conclusion and closing of that chapter. Revealing something with more randomness (dealing with so many years of composing and experiences), for a new listener it might mean that he still might wonder about the portion of naivety involved in the music, something the writer might have questioned himself, knowing Moondog’s psychological background too well. This aspect is more noticeable when some tracks from certain periods are taken out of their surrounding and also constructive contexts and personal evolution. I heard other sceptics having their restraints, so I can only hope people see behind all this. Perhaps these critics still feel him as being an odd combination of an outsider in music, with inevitable rhythmical skills and some advantages of the outsider for making combinations of sounds with music, in a timeless unusual way for his times (especially noticeable in the fifties recordings), while the first serious attempts for compositional freedom (the CBS years) also deals with a, at that point seemingly, almost simplistic admiration of certain forms of traditionalism, which does not bring forward, through rough hearing, the opportunities for real new music related compositional ideas. The Glass/Reich/Gibson sessions for instance shows specifically enjoyment within the minimalism of circumstances without a real need for much more..

If someone would really take the effort to go through the whole available repertoire, as something I could do for a huge part, I personally think that each available album feels rather conceptualized, like chapters of conscious and awareness, revealing an interesting musical evolution that brings forward, on its own, its master and genius, as a slowly evolving expressive individualist, even when hanging together with its limiting or stimulating circumstances, coming from previous conditions of circumstances, here is something that is worth experiencing as something undeniable unique. It shows thoughtful and carefully built up balances of elements, starting from spontaneous, intuitive new expressions mixed with classical Western tradition. It re-established these traditions through re-founding its (own) origins. Then it also opened this up again with different origins (musical : Japanese folk, native Indian rhythm, and others, coming forward from fundamental survival circumstances). It has opened up this core of inspiration with jazz skills and coounterpoint. It has established improvisational skills, showed ears within restriction, dealt with the importance of mathematical patterns. His personal psychological strength that could deal with hard restriction also found its way (he remained capable of creating within rough circumstances). It’s desire for independence was mixed with the need for finding true and truthful roots, all the skills for mathematical and often rhythmic based variations, and the creation of a mood with it participated.

The appendix resumes a reference and with technical detail all the recordings you can find from Moondog.

Info : http://processmediainc.com/... & http://www.managarm.com/bob.htm
& http://www.moondogscorner.de/biography/scotto.html
& http://www.emptymirrorbooks.com/... & http://www.emptymirrorbooks.com...
& http://www.moondogrising.com/... & http://www.moondogscorner.de/biography/chap3.html
Other reviews : http://books.guardian.co.uk/review/story/0,,2235364,00.html
& http://processmediainc.com/... & http://www.bookforum.com/inprint/014_04/1422

Interview (audio) : http://processmediainc.com/...





Trunk Rec.Kenny Graham and his Sattelites: Moondog and Suncat Suites -LP/CD- (US,1957,re.2010)****

When London jazzman Kenny Graham heard one of the earliest Moondog records, he decided to make some rearrangements assembled them as “Moondog Suite” on side A. This way of working also inspired him to make his own response, recorded as the “Suncat Suite”. The Moondog part has jazz flavours in the rhythms, have exotic flavours (like the “Lullaby” with vocals) and are arranged like a professional classically trained professional jazz combo like you could more easily find in the 50s. For his response on “Sunrise” he used the Ceylonese singer Yolanda. Here the arrangements are even more filmic. It also plays with known happy swinging near-dance-related but more complex than that rhythmic styles and entertaining arrangements with a great exotic touch. Highly recommended ! ...

Audio on http://boomkat.com/...
Label info : http://www.trunkrecords.com/turntable/moondog.shtml
Ars Musici Xenia Narati : Moondog Sharp Harp -Strings For Kings-(D,2006)****'

When I lately heard a not too great recording from the Renaissance composer John Downland on lute, a composer which I remembered as being interesting and original, I didn't think such an album could be disappointing, this classical music release made me realise how important a player is, that for some bare compositions especially it is necessary he/she plays them like composer, a creative person him/herself or it simply doesn't work. Xenia Narati luckily delivers those qualities. Her interpretations of Moondog compositions make them come out brilliantly, she also has alternated them on CD with more ancient compositions from Alonso Mudarra, Lucas Ruiz de Ribayaz, Ottorino Respighi, Antonio de Cabezon, Fransisco Fernandez Palero, Lodovico Roncalli, all Italian and Spanish composers from the 15th till 17th century, showing Moondog in a place and context he himself preferred to be, in this case early classical composers. In this, Xenia shows vision. Two original lute pieces once arranged by Respighi were this time 'retransposed' for harp. The “anonymous” piece by Respghi had already been interpreted before by harpist Marcel Grandjany. Also the Mudarra piece which was rearranged/composed for harp by Xenia Narati had originally been for another instrument, the luteguitar called the vihuela. The other Spanish pieces had been transcribed by harpist Nicanor Zabaleta. Then, Moondog's piece “Art of Canon, book 5 nr.9” had something of a musical box lullaby, played with differences in accents. Xenia Narati's interpretations are played with consciousness over the compositions and a deep feeling with the harp playing so that they come over lightly but at the same time have many differences in timbre, colour and shows her harp playing is not at all depending on a limited method or structural dependence. It is as if many instruments could be traced, or each time a new focus on the instrument comes forth through the different compositions, even though the pieces fit perfectly together, and the compilation is wonderfully compiled for the idea of a cd compilation. Although there are typical style elements recognisable of the earlier pieces, I had to look at the cd list for which were Moondog's pieces and which not. Xenia shows more insight in Moondog's pieces and I'm sure he would have approved of her interpretations wholeheartly.  One of my favourite and very rewarding easily coming forward Moondog pieces included here is “Elf Dance”, light happy and sad at the same time, a full experience or the whole world into one place, a sort of rondo-waltz,  played like more often with orchestral touches. The pianopiece “Sea Horse” has changed  with subtle softness, played with skilled different timbres. The last piece was expanded with improvisation of sounds with curtains, radiators and speaker stand percussion. This album is not only a must for Moondog fans. It shows vision on the harp in a for the listener easy to listen way. Still this will demand many listens to grab all compositional insights established with vision, focus and tranquility.

About Xenia Narati : she also plays new music for harp, and plays with Notabu, a new music ensemble.

Moondog wrote 5 books for the art of the canon/the fuga, based upon 24 canons in any tone in major and minor,  to create a new art of the fuga. It started from Bach's principles on the fuga but the pieces are written in different styles, like Haydn and so on. But it still is hard to do research on them ; also the persons who own the rights are extremely protective and cautious on this. It is true that Moondog during his life fought for recognition and that his works and name were not abused cheaply (remember his court case against the Belgian Moondog group who had to change their name). But nowadays also more serious investigations and concerts are made difficult in a way I am sure Moondog might not have wanted that, because this way his unknown works will remain unknown forever and are not prepared seriously for a public. What is for instance not understandable to me is that in the last years Xenia Narati was forbidden to play Moondog in concerts by the Goebel family. And the Moondog festival last year in Ulm with about 15 musicians had to be canceled for the same reasons.
Xenia Narati has a dream to record all Moondog canons some day, but some of them are less suitable or not so obvious to interpret on harp. She currently is working with percussionist Ray Kaczinsky on more Moondog pieces. I hope we can hear more of this later.

Audio on http://www.honestjons.com/... ; Homepage : http://www.xenia-narati.de/

Other release of Xenia Narati on http://psychefolk.com/newmusic3.html#anchor_131
privateO.E.S. (Orchestra Eclectica e Sincretista) : Moondogging (I,2011)*°°

Although I found the starting point of this project in the first two tracks interesting, the third track in fact stagnates all the built up ideas and from then on the music loops endlessly and in darkness. The first track, “Denis is Moondogging” sounds like a pulsating minimalist theme with cello/viola keyboards in an opening up way and with a baroque sensitivity, like a tune that remembers itself from within, repeating itself with certain harmonic layers. On the second track, “Giampaolo is moondogging”, a voice is singing the “Fujiyama” tune with vocal harmonies and droning voice in the background, singing like in an early morning awakening. The third track, “Massimo is moondogging” repeats the main “Fujiyama” theme on a slightly out of tune pipa, with Japanese spoken word from a loudspeaker in a big waiting hall in the background and with responses of heavy distorted noise and later voice. From then on the choice of distortion and blur has been made and lots of varieties of the musical theme are being repeated like loops that have more the nature of imprisoned nightmares than of beauty, with orchestral and other drones, song repetition and so on and this for all the following tracks. There are some small interesting elements but never again it comes to another musical theme, composition or different idea, and even so the variations remain more like a dark repetition than like a real variation into thought over segments. A shame that this lazy approach therefore partly wastes this project.

Info OES : http://www.myspace.com/orchestraecletticaesincretista & http://www.archive.org/details/wh135
Albumintro : http://webbedhandrecords.com/wh135-oes-moondogging/
TrovarobatoHobocombo : Now, that's the opposite, it's twice upon a time -mcd-(I,2011)****

Having started as a fun band, Hobocombo in fact has become much more than a tribute band to Moondog. They found their own sound and amuse themselves while reinterpreting Moondog’s songs in an indie pop/rock context, a vision for a general public of our times and perspectives, projecting the positive notes of Moondog. This is no exploitation of Moondog’s heritage, but a fresh understanding what to do with these songs, Hobocombo’s way. The rather complex but playful rhythms that are slightly repetitive in nature in a pre-minimalist sense are divided into drum rhythms and the pleasant presence of the shakers, and occasionally guitar rhythms or double bass. The melody (or sometimes, in his minimalist sense overlapping repetitions of melodic song themes) is either fronted by the Korg ms10 keyboards, the male and female voices, the electric guitar but also by the double bass again, occasionally we hear an harmonica (,a spoken word on distorted vocals). Beautiful to hear is that the female vocalist has a more ethereal folkie voice adding once more another new aspect and mood to these interpretations. I know the family who has inherited the music of Moondog never was keen on hearing new interpretations, a band like Hobocombo proves it could inject new pop music with new life. The band not only interpreted the earlier, most known works of Moondog, they even tried one of the later songs, “Enough about Human Rights”, a stylistically different sort of interpretation with which they managed not to make a too obvious pop/rock rhythm driven song alone thanks to an electric guitar improvisation added to it.  Recommended.

Hobocombo is Francesca Baccolini on double bass and voice; Andrea Belfi on drums, percussions, harmonica and voice; Rocco Marchi on electric guitar, lap steel, Korg MS10 and voice.

Video : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=imW2csTFJ0U
Info & audio : http://www.myspace.com/hobocombo
Audio: http://soundcloud.com/hobocombo/stamping-ground
Info : http://www.chocolateguns.com/content/?page_id=1482
& http://www.dense.de/news.html#hobocombo
Homepage : http://www.hobocombo.com/
Label info (Italian) : http://www.trovarobato.com/hobocombo.html
Other review : http://www.whisperinandhollerin.com/reviews/review.asp?id=8420
French review : http://www.benzinemag.net/2011/08/10/hobocombo-now-that-its-the-opposite/
Italian reviews : http://www.sodapop.it/rbrth/content/view/1157/9/
& http://www.sands-zine.com/recensioni.php?IDrec=1626 ; next album->


Trovarobato Parade/Tannen Records
Broken Silence   Hobocombo : Moondog Mask (I,2013)****

I have read a comment somewhere that for some reviewer and in this new album “Hobocombo isn’t enough Moondog”. I do not agree. For me they are like very good students of Moondog who are already finding their own respectful answers to the master’s approach. I must admit that also I might not recognise all songs or tracks or references and probably is not only about a sum of such references any more: the band also responds to Moondog with their own perfect answers, in dialogue and with fitting new tracks as well, even though there the rhythms are slower and a bit less complex as Moondog would have made them, the arrangements still are tight and worked out to the bone.

It is incredible for such a small band how many instruments they were using here second after second, layer after layer. Of course, they are also the odd responses and contrasts to it with electronics here and there, like its combination with crumhorns on track 1 or in the rondo theme on track 5. We have a bit of “boogaloo” jazz (track 2), a slide guitar led theme, which are all signs how the students are like matured students who come up with their own surprising ideas that could also have pleased the master but above all gives joy to themselves.

Of course I recognise several Moondog themes and rhythms in it, a few times the band also show real surprises with them, not only just in the interpretations, but also in the extra arrangements and ideas that are added to it, like for instance in the response in vocal arrangements (track 8).

Where they really could give extra joy to the public is in the rockier Moondog interpretation of “To a Sea Horse”. 

A very enjoyable release, so please don’t start with a preoccupied expectation for it: the band surely delivered a good album !!

The European release will be ready January 2014.

Video intro: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h40nqzWOqF0
Info & audio : http://www.hobocombo.com/
& http://hobocombo.bandcamp.com/
Digital version: http://trovarobato.bandcamp.com/album/moondog-mask
Italian label: http://www.trovarobato.com/trovarobato-shop/product/70-hobocombo-moondog-mask.html
German distributor: http://brokensilence.de/

More links will be added later. The European release will be ready January 2014.


La Vali Getta Rec.Quakers and Mormons : Evolvotron (I,2011)****

Maolo and Mancho (My Awesome Mixtape)’s latest project can be considered as a kind of beat poetry project. It is mixed wonderfully but they were kind of secret about where they got their inspirations, which is a bit a shame because this could have been a tribute to Moondog, with 8 tracks out of 10 using fragments, remixes and reworks of Moondog, it is like a meeting point of two street cultures, where our generation is the one in the most destructive state, with expressions starting from points of negativity, decay, anonymity, escapism and destruction, in this case I have to add stealing also someone else’s music even though in reality it is about reorganising, recycling the past into something new and using its own rich making imagination for it, the beat poetry is one step beyond with its creative expansion the low cast hip hop, adding beautiful vocal harmonies in the group singing and with a talent to produce and remix. Added are bass and drums, a bit of electronic keyboards here and there, sparse other sampled fragments like an eastern European brass arrangement, and a few interesting deformations of the recordings and voices, and hand claps. A few times it is hiphop, but the band starts singing rhythmically too with more vocalists participating. Some of the Moondogs is from his street performances, something from his jazz band performances and a few fragments from Moondog 1 & 2, like “All is Loneliness”, the rondo of Moondog with his daughter and an orchestrated track with percussion. If they would have asked permission to do this they might not have got it. They come from a culture Moondog might no longer have understood, being too aggressive for his nature, to a way the duo succeeds to bring on the meeting point all right. The mix is constructive, the words always adapted fully into the music, yes this is in fact really convincing !

The album I got was a sort of LP-sleeve with the lyrics in a 12-page booklet.

Info & audio : http://www.myspace.com/quakersandmormons
Audio : http://www.beatport.com/release/evolvotron/347613
& http://www.junodownload.com/products/evolvotron/1724899-02/
Label : http://www.lavaligetta.it/
Italian review : http://www.rockit.it/recensione/15850/quakersandmormons-evolvotron
& http://www.ondarock.it/recensioni/2011_quakersandmormons.htm
Distro info : http://fiverosespress.net/wp-content/upload/qua-en.pdf


Jazz VillageSylvain Rifflet & Jon Irabagon : Perpetual Motion,
a celebration to Moondog -CD+DVD- French/English (F/US,rec.2013-14)***°

I checked this item out by starting with the DVD before the CD, and I think that was a good choice because with the DVD and via a documentary-like presentation you do not only get a very good grip on the ideas behind this concept, you feel very much how the approach was worked out further and with imagery that had been used.

Sylvain Riffet went especially to New York for this project, to feel the now much more busy streets of New York, to record local sounds, not just as an occasional background or trial session but also for samples to be incorporated in one of the tracks. He met jazz history expert Jon Irabagon, invited a few more New York musicians and shared the project partly with some children choirs from the Seine-Saint-Dennis area. The approach of the core duo, with musicians clearly shows they are from a different era and interest, like with interest to much more free jazz music and not minding an atonal moment, it is a rather different angle to Moondog that hadn’t been tried before. Moondog much more was a meditatively structured harmony-seeking traditionalist. The duo is not entirely going too deep into that original inspirational process which needs the understanding of the richness inside a limited space where there occurs a certain repetition of elements, of a specific moment of expression, the understanding of all rhythmical combinations within that former structure. What the duo does do is investigate the contemporary city life environment, which when adapted leads to much more chaos, noise and loudness. It is only used as one starting point, for which the band seeks in free improvisation much more the recreation of an inner mood, rather than from the streets. While Moondog was the eternal standing rock, the duo acts as if seeing all this as a meeting place in which they enter, walk a whole way, and then walk out, an approach which fits perfectly with jazz, but is a scope outside Moondog’s world.
It is very nice how the children were brought in as a controlled spontaneous moment, an invitation to something human within all differences, it is an element which suits well too.

Especially during the first half of the CD which takes the foundation of Moondog mostly in a melodic sense, the structure is used within layers of improvisation, mostly it is the flow of jazz that matters. And once Moondog is left behind for the second approach it still is felt as a welcome thinking outside the box, an approach they know how to handle, even though I wondered if they had been open to many more aspects of it perhaps it might have requested even more cleverness to adapt that. The band still shows tendencies to a bit of atonalities or chaos, though their sort of fall-backs are still entirely harmonious in a jazz context. Some parts are taken to improvise with the elements much more like a rock band, with an almost psychedelic or jamming element, especially when electric guitar is added, the sort of returning Moondog themes  still make the alternation more rich with it. With two saxes in its core, the band could have continued where Moondog left off during "Pax for Sax", in a way returning to their own formerly adapted style approaches, of jazz mostly, even when it occasionally gets them to some other places. A different addition compared to all other Moondog cover artists, at the same time it lost a few important connections with Moondog, Moondog’s time and the skills and heritage of the master, even though the results remain interesting and enjoyable as an adaptation to something different.

Video: http://vimeo.com/64429307
Audio: https://www.highresaudio.com/... & http://www.allmusic.com/... & http://www.qobuz.com/...

Info: http://sylvainrifflet.com/perpetual-motion/
& http://www.wonderingsound.com/news/new-jazz-week-tineke-postma-greg-osby-malte-schiller-octet/



all links updated 2002, June 24th
new item added 2014, october

go back to index

more info : http://theosophic.homestead.com/poster3.html

New Moondog label :
http://www.managarm.com:80/

Moondog's music on myspace :
http://www.myspace.com/tugboattoccata
http://www.myspace.com/louismoondoghardin.





LECTURE IN ANTWERP I DID:
- LEZING OP 2009-10-