Essential Sounds: Moondog

“The only one who knows this ounce of words is just a token is he who has a ton to tell that must remain unspoken.”

Words from Moondog, “The Viking of 6th Avenue”, the enigmatic figure and blind composer. He was born as Louis Thomas Hardin in Kansas. At 16 he picked up a dynamite cap from the railroad tracks that blew up in his face; music became more than natural, it was necessity. In his late 20’s he moved to New York and apparently chose of his own volition to live on the streets where he unconventionally composed music, invented instruments, generally dressed like a viking, and busked. He steadily gained regard for his talents throughout his life. He befriended the composer of the New York Philharmonic, Artur Rodzinsk, while playing on the street in front of Carnegie Hall. He never fit in with any constrained or scripted lifestyle, but he did rub shoulders with many important cultural movers and shakers including Dizzy Gillespie, Benny Goodman, Igor Stravinsky, William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Phillip Glass and so on. Moondog’s music is odd poetry, street sounds, symphonic, minimalist, and sly jazz. As he said it he uses, “a slithery rhythm, in times that are not ordinary. I’m not gonna die in 4/4 time.” Moondog died in 1999. This piece “Birds Lament” is seemingly a tribute to Charlie Parker. I think when Moondog is slowed down a bit and calmed it really is essential.

For more Moondog essentials try Viking #1 or something from his very last album, New Amsterdam, and it turns out he has a forthcoming biopic film, The Viking of 6th Avenue.

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