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18 Sep 2016

Moondog “Moondog” 1969 UK Jazz,Modern Classical ,Minimalism








Moondog “Moondog” 1969 UK Jazz,Modern Classical ,Minimalism
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Cover Notes 
(Notes from the CD-release): Louis Hardin, better known as Moondog, is an American original with a fondness for European culture, especially his own Nordic heritage. During the 1960s and 70s, Moondog, dressed in his coarse Viking garments with horned helmet and spear, was a regular feature on the corner of 54th Street and 6th Avenue in Manhattan, He sold mimeographed copies of his poetry and philosophized about most anything to anyone who cared to listen. He now lives in Europe where he is happily closer to his Scandinavian roots. 
This disc consists of what were originally two separate albums: the first, issued in 1969, includes colorful orchestral works interspersed with some of Moondog´s streetcorner contemplations; the second, from 1972, contains lively rounds, canons and catches. Viewed as a whole, the music displays Moondog´s penchant for clarity of line and rhythmic vitality. 

Joseph R. Dalton 

The following are excerpts from Moondog´s original notes: 

I was born in Marysville, Kansas, May 26, 1916 … My first school was a log cabin in Burnt Fork, Wyoming, and my first teacher was my mother … My first drum set, at the age of five, was a cardboard box … In 1929, my dad [an Episcopal minister] sold the ranch and we moved east, eventually buying a farm in Hurley, Missouri. I played drums in Hurley High School. It was in Hurley that I lost my sight when a dynamite cap exploded … 
I finished high school in the Iowa School for the Blind. There I got my first real formal training in music and heard my first classical music. I studied violin, viola, piano, pipe organ, harmony and sang bass in the choir … But much of what I know about music was self-taught, by reading braille books on the subject, doing much listening for ear training, so I could write down the music I heard in my head. I am so self-trained that I write all my music away from any Instrument. I do use the piano to test passages, but I do not rely on it … 
I began using Moondog as a pen name in 1947, in honor of a dog I had in Hurley, Missouri, who used to howl at the moon more than any dog I knew of … 
Though I was born in the United States, I consider myself “a European in exile” for my heart and soul are in Europe. I am a classicist at heart, and everything is classically conceived, in form, content and interpretation … I feel like I have one foot planted in America and one in Europe, or one in the present and one in the past. Rhythmically, I am considered to be in the present, even avant garde, whereas melodically and harmonically I am very much in the past. But the present becomes the past just as the future becomes the present. As I say in one of my lyrics, “Today is yesterday´s tomorrow which is now … 

Theme was first recorded in 1952, following a period of buying up old instruments and working out the parts, and then finally dubbing them all in - reeds, brass, percussion and strings. It is not only a theme, but, it is my theme, a sort of musical signature … Stamping Ground is in D Minor, in the vein of Lament I, but the melodic line works itself into a canon, or the melodic line is a canon, and revels itself as such as the piece progresses … Symphonique #3(Ode to Venus) is a twelve-part canon with a four-bar coda. With an implied reference to Tchaikovsky´s "None But the Lonely Heart,” it creates a very lush, impassioned contrapuntal texture, full of the joys and sorrows of love … Symphonique #6 (Good for Goodie), dedicated to Benny Goodman, is in the swing style, though classically conceived. The form is called a ground, that is, a theme played over and over in the bass. Counting the ground, this piece is in seventeen-part counterpoint - every eight bars a new part comes in, and, once in, keeps repeating its eight bars to the end. The first added part is for Goodie, and that part is played in the highest register of the clarinet on the last repeat, up high like Benny plays … Minisym #1: Minisym refers to either the orchestra or to a composition, like saying that a symphony plays a symphony. It has three short movements, each with a middle section or trio … Lament I (Bird´s Lament) was written in honor of Charlie Parker, on hearing of his death. It is a chaconne, a four-bar accompaniment that is repeated over and over with a free melodic line over it, played by an alto sax, Bird´s instrument, with an obligato played on a baritone sax. Bird used to stop by my door-way back in 1951-2 and talk about music. One night I met him in Times Square and shook a shaking hand, not realizing that would be the last time we would meet … Witch of Endor is part of a ballet that I wrote for Martha Graham. It begins and ends in 5/4 time, dances by the witch. The trio consists of three parts: I. The witch´s prophecy of Saul´s death; 2. An idealized depiction of the battle on the mountain, and Saul, realizing he is losing it, decides to take his own life by falling on his own sword, held by a soldier; 3. The death of Saul … Symphonique#1 (Portrait of a Monarch) is a symphonic synthesis, a musical portrait of Thor the Nordoom, Emperor of Earth, a fictitious person but nonetheless factual. By means of having a monopoly on the world´s gold supply, he rules from behind the scene, by means of agents and double agents. It opens vigorously, imperiously, depicting bis absolute power; then comes the section showing his jocular side, a robust good humor; then a return to the towering strength of his personality, closing with a long chord, diminishing to a whisper, for he is one who knows peace and calm, the peace and calm of one who crushes all opposition to his will … 

- Moondog ….. 

Moondog’s story is one of the most unusual you will find about a musician. While being blind, because of a blasting cap that exploded in his face while he was 16, he earned the nickname of “The Viking Of 6th Avenue” from playing on a street of New York dressed in a homemade Viking suit and horned hat. With that said, his music is also far from usual; Moondog achieves to blend Native American rhythms and Jazz elements with Classical music and the result is simply extraordinary. 

What makes Louis Thomas Hardin’s music so avant-garde is how he borders on both jazz and classical music, a method which can be heard on compositions such as “Lament I, ‘Bird’s Lament.’” I wonder what would have happened to Moondog’s music if his father never took him to an Arapaho sundance (a religious ceremony practiced by Native American and First Nations peoples), which is where he discovered rhythms that inspired him and eventually guided his music. Because what truly stands out of this album is the unusual percussion and odd time signatures. He calls it snaketime and justifies it by saying that he will not die in 4/4 time. It’s no doubt that the music is minimalist, but that doesn’t equal weak or boring, “Stamping Ground” boasts powerful horns and uses his snaketime method to sound like a true warrior anthem. 

The album is only instrumental compositions, but at times you will hear Moondog say strange, and out of context (or maybe not?) things such as the nine seconds long “Cuplet” which is basically only him saying “The only one who knows this ounce of words as just a token, is he who has a tongue to tell but must remain unspoken.” 

In his never ending search of innovation and desire to create new sounds, Moondog went as far as creating new musical instruments with names such as “Oo,” “Ooo-ya-tsu,” and “Trimba.” While his tendency to spend days performing in the streets and his eccentric way of dressing often lead to people thinking he was homeless, he actually had an apartment in New York and even lived with composer Philip Glass for some time. It’s evident that he had an influence on him and other minimalist composers such as Steve Reich. 

Apparently, his playing spot at Sixth Avenue and 54th Street became known, even by cops and taxi drivers, as Moondog’s Corner, and celebrities such as Muhammad Ali and Martin Scorsese would come to see him. Not only is the music an incredible achievement for a human, but to think that the composer was blind and self-taught seems simply impossible. Being a street musician and having such weird ways to dress, he might seem ludicrous and come off as a joke, but he is far from one. Moondog is definitely one of the most innovative modern musicians. “A dog who used to howl at the moon more than any dog I knew of.” 

by Charles ….. 

While his first albums featured Moondog on the streets, performing solo, this album barely contains any of Moondog’s actual playing. While the first albums had a few guest musicians here and there, playing “instruments” like tap shoes, this album has over half an orchestra, playing flutes, bassoons, cellos and all that fancy stuff. While the first three albums were charming, homemade, do-it-yourself performances, this is a posh classical album. But none of that means you won’t like this record if you loved the first three, because quite honestly, this album is impossible to hate. 

I’m not sure what happened in those twelve years between “The Story of Moondog” and this release…I don’t know if it was living on the streets, or his sometimes residence in his cabin upstate with no electricity, or his divorce, or what, but, damn…what a change of pace. I know nothing of classical or jazz music, so I have no idea if this album is clever or breaks any new ground, but it is just about the most catchy and stylish orchestrated music I have heard. Listening to it is like watching a movie: the layers of sound, all fitting together, telling some kind of beautiful, but slightly reckless story. It only lasts a shade over thirty minutes, but there are hardly any wasted notes, and each tune really does capture your attention. I know it sounds corny, but for a virtual homeless, blind, basically self taught, Viking lover of a man to come up with such an impressive, gripping album just makes the album sound that much more cool…you know? 

The opening “Theme” begins as a typical Moondog percussion piece, seemingly no different from any of his other records, but slowly the orchestration builds, swirling, rising towards a point just out of reach. To me it sounds like a struggle… and the song ends before the mêlée is decided, leaving you feeling both unfulfilled, but eager for the resolution. “Stomping Ground” doesn’t bring you any closer to closure though. After some brief street noises and a quick spoken word section by Moondog, the orchestration enters on a marching beat.  This isn’t military marching though; it is much too loose. Instead it sounds like a city gang; some punk kids swaying down the streets—scheming, spying, and getting ready…creating an extraordinary edginess. 

Unfortunately, “Symphonique #3 (Ode to Venus)” brings an end to the tension, with a five-minute, elegant moan, sounding like the scene when Juliet wakes to see Romeo dead and decides to kill herself. Dark and attractive, it is not really something that gets my juices flowing (although I’m no classical connoisseur, so maybe it will really speak to you). “Symphonique #6 (Good for Goodie)” is definitely more my style though, beginning with a bass solo that sounds like the White Stripes. Soon some horns come jiving in, be-bopping and head knobbing their way through a cool riff with swagger and purpose. The song gradually finds dimension, adding instrument after instrument, with the bass getting fortified by a tuba, and all the instruments just groove—they hit it, you know…making this just about the coolest little classical/jazz piece: melodic, tough, and funky! 

Another short Moondog poem opens the six-minute “Minisym #1.” At the beginning, this piece sounds like some fantasyland epic movie (like Willow or Lord of the Rings), all bombastic, but with some Medieval, elfin charm. The middle though, is a more introspective section where the horns sound like they are having a deep conversation with themselves, a little cheesy, but tolerable because it leads to the intense closing, taken at breakneck speed, with Moondog’s crazy percussion keeping beat. It has a great rock riff, with the horns taking the place of an electric solo…absolutely smoking. 

And the pace doesn’t let up with “Lament 1 “Bird’s Lament”.” This piece was written for jazz great Charlie Parker when Moondog heard of his friend’s death. But instead of being remorseful, this song cooks as well, having more of a restrained party sound that is outright ear candy. It was used in some minivan commercials in the early part of this decade, so it will probably sound familiar, and it might just be the catchiest thing Moondog ever released…two-minutes of happy horn hooks. 

“Witch of Endor” is something completely different, a mini opera done in six-minutes. Each sectioned title perfectly depicts the music, with the opening and closing sounding like some sort of dance ceremony, and the middle going from a prophesy, to a battle, to the main character’s death. Of course, this piece was the inspiration behind George Lucas having both Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader die on the planet Endor! Seriously though, the music strangely could be used to explain that story perfectly…eerie, but cool J The closing “Symphonique #1 (Portrait of a Monarch)” is the most cartoonish arrangement on the album, with a more bouncy feel…it is still slightly dark, but the humor can be heard here easily. It isn’t my favorite tune on the record, not reaching the standards set by the previous selections until the beautiful coda. Still though, it is goofy and fun and a great change of pace for the closer. 

Overall this is fantastic in a way that fairy tales are fantastic: loveable, innocent, touching, but with a slightly dark atmosphere. The brevity does bother me a little, but it only makes me want to play the album over and over again. As I have said a few times, this might not be a great album to the ears of an expert of classical or jazz, but trust me, it is accessible beyond belief, charming, melodic, fun, gorgeous, and a gem that you really need to uncover….by Almost Gredible.. .. 

Side A: 
01. Theme (2:34) 
02. Stamping Ground (2:36) 
03. Symphony # 3 (Ode to Venus) (5:48) 
04. Symphony # 6 (Good For Goodie) (2:44) 
05. Cuplet (0:08) 
06. Minisym # 1 (5:42) 
- I – Allegro 
- II – Andante 
- III – Vivace 
Side B: 
07. Lament I, “Bird’s Lament” (1:41) 
08. Witch Of Endor (6:27) 
- I – Dance 
- II – Trio 
- – A. Adagio (The Prophesy) 
- – B. Andante (The Battle) 
- – C. Agitato (Saul’s Death) 
- III – Dance (Reprise) 
09. Symphony # 1 (Portrait Of A Monarch) (2:34) 

johnkatsmc5, welcome music..

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