Friday, 26 May 2023

Moondog (Louis Thomas Hardin) born 26 May 1916

Louis Thomas Hardin (May 26, 1916 – September 8, 1999), known professionally as Moondog, was an American composer, musician, performer, music theoretician, poet and inventor of musical instruments. 

Hardin was born in Marysville, Kansas, to Louis Thomas Hardin, an Episcopalian minister, and Norma Alves. Hardin started playing a set of drums that he made from a cardboard box at the age of five. His family relocated to Wyoming, where his father opened a trading post at Fort Bridger. 

On July 4, 1932, the 16-year-old Hardin found an object in a field which he did not realise was a dynamite cap. While he was handling it, the explosive detonated in his face and permanently blinded him. His older sister, Ruth, would read to him daily after the accident for many years. Here he had his first encounters with philosophy, science and myth that formed his character. One book in particular, The First Violin, inspired him to pursue music. Up to that point he had been interested mainly in percussion instruments, but from then on, he became obsessed with the desire to become a composer. 

After learning the principles of music in several schools for blind young men across middle America, he taught himself the skills of ear training and composition. He studied with Burnet Tuthill at the Iowa School for the Blind.He then moved to Batesville, Arkansas, where he lived until 1942, when he obtained a scholarship to study in Memphis, Tennessee. Although he was largely self-taught in music, learning predominantly by ear, he learned some music theory from books in braille during his time in Memphis. 

In 1943, Hardin moved to New York, where he met classical musicians including Leonard Bernstein and Arturo Toscanini, as well as jazz performers such as Charlie Parker and Benny Goodman, whose upbeat tempos and often humorous compositions would influence Hardin's later work. One of his early street posts was near the 52nd Street nightclub strip, and he was known to jazz musicians. 

By 1947, Hardin had adopted the name "Moondog" in honour of a dog "who used to howl at the moon more than any dog I knew of." From the late 1940s until 1972, Moondog lived as a street musician and poet in New York City, playing in midtown Manhattan, eventually settling on the corner of 53rd or 54th Street and Sixth Avenue in Manhattan. He was rarely if ever homeless, and maintained an apartment in upper Manhattan and had a country retreat in Candor, New York, to which he moved full-time in 1972. 


He partially supported himself by selling copies of his poetry and his musical philosophy. In addition to his music and poetry, he was also known for the distinctive fanciful "Viking" cloak that he wore. Already bearded and long-haired, he added a Viking-style horned helmet to avoid the occasional comparisons of his appearance with that of Christ or a monk, as he had rejected Christianity in his late teens. He developed a lifelong interest in Nordic mythology, and maintained an altar to Thor in his country home in Candor. 

In 1949, he traveled to a Blackfoot Sun Dance in Idaho where he performed on percussion and flute, returning to the Native American music he first came in contact with as a child. It was this Native music, along with contemporary jazz and classical, mixed with the ambient sounds from his environment (city traffic, ocean waves, babies crying, etc.) that created the foundation of Moondog's music. 

In 1954, he won a case in the New York State Supreme Court against disc jockey Alan Freed, who had branded his radio show, "The Moondog Rock and Roll Matinee", around the name "Moondog", using "Moondog's Symphony" (the first record that Moondog ever cut) as his "calling card"  Moondog believed he would not have won the case had it not been for the help of musicians such as Benny Goodman and Arturo Toscanini, who testified that he was a serious composer. Freed had to apologize and stop using the nickname "Moondog" on air, on the basis that Hardin was known by the name long before Freed began using it. 

Along with his passion for Nordic culture, Moondog had an idealised view of Germany, where he settled in 1974. He revisited the United States briefly in 1989, for a tribute at the New Music America Festival in Brooklyn, in which festival director Yale Evelev asked him to conduct the Brooklyn Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra, stimulating a renewed interest in his music. 

Eventually, a young German student named Ilona Goebel (later known as Ilona Sommer) helped Moondog set up the primary holding company for his artistic endeavors and hosted him, first in Oer-Erkenschwick, and later on in Münster in Westphalia. Moondog lived with Sommer's family and they spent time together in Münster. During that period, Moondog created hundreds of compositions which were transferred from Braille to sheet music by Sommer. Moondog spent the remainder of his life in Germany. 

On 8 September 1999, he died in Münster from heart failure. He is buried at the Central Cemetery Münster.    (Edited from Wikipedia) 


boppinbob said...

Todays birthday post was suggested by Hans P. A big thank you goes to Denis for the loan of the 4 albums that are track-listed below, which you’ll find here:

Moondog (1969)

01) Moondog - Theme (Instrumental)
02) Moondog - Stamping Ground (Instrumental)
03) Moondog - Symphonique #3 (Ode To Venus) (Instrumental)
04) Moondog - Symphonique #6 (Good For Goodie) (Instrumental)
05) Moondog - Minisym #1 (Instrumental)
06) Moondog - Lament I, Bird's Lament (Instrumental)
07) Moondog - Witch Of Endor (Instrumental)
08) Moondog - Symphonique #1 (Portrait Of A Monarch) (Instrumental)

An Introduction To Moondog (2019)

1. Bird's Lament
2. Viking 1
3. Moondog's Theme
4. Trees Against the Sky
5. Rabbit Hop
6. All is Loneliness
7. To a Sea Horse
8. Autumn
9. Trimbas in Quarters
10. Friska
11. Fantasia
12. Pastoral
13. Black Hole (New York Session)
14. Rain Forest.
15. Elf Dance (Live)
16. Moondog Monologue

Moondog – The Stockholm 1981 Recordings (2019)

1. A Furore 2:03
2. Bifrost 1:40
3. What Is The Name 1:35
4. See The Mighty Tree 1:48
5. Buri, Borr 2:07
6. See The Tree 2:18
7. Rollo 2:07
8. Ten Legs 1:34

Moondog – On The Streets Of New York (2020)

1. Why Spend The Dark Night With You? 1:17
2. Moondog Nocturne Suite Part 1 2:21
3. Moondog Nocturne Suite Part 2 2:59
4. Moondog Nocturne Suite Part 3 3:35
5. Avenue Of The Americas (51st Street) 1:32
6. 2 West 46th Street 1:33
7. Lullaby (2 West 46th Street) 1:11
8. Fog On The Hudson (425 W 57th Street) 1:19
9. Utsu 1:10
10. On And Off The Beat 1:30
11. Chant 1:09
12. From One To Nine 1:53
13. Untitled Chant #1 0:43
14. Untitled Chant #2 1:00
15. Untitled Chant #3 1:21
16. Untitled Percussion Solo #1 0:50
17. Untitled Percussion Solo #2 1:29
18. Untitled Percussion Solo #3 0:51
19. Untitled Chant #4 1:09
20. Untitled Percussion Solo In Traffic #1 1:50
21. Untitled Percussion Solo In Traffic #2 0:27

D said...


Mac said...

Had an album of his that he did with Julie Andrews of all people, very strange to see that pairing - did not last long on my rotating play list I'm sorry to say (or maybe not!)

Paulo said...

Very interesting

HansP said...

Thank you Bob and Denis for this. Although I chatted with him briefly a few times, I never bought any of his poetry pamphlets. Fascinating person.......Thanks again.

rev.b said...

Picked this up as a cut out ages ago. Over the years it’s turned into a Christmas favorite. I saw the cover posted and thought some might like to hear the music.

Moondog - Moondog 2 (Columbia, 1971)

boppinbob said...

Thanks rev.b. All contributions are welcome!