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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Foretold in the Language of Dreams

Louis Thomas Hardin (May 26, 1916–September 8, 1999) better known as Moondog was a revered pioneer on the Avant-Garde/Minimalist scene. His revolutionary attitude towards composition and melody was lauded by such eminent notables as Philip Glass and Steve Reich, while his style and attitude drew comparisons to Harry Partch. His influence can be seen in the music of Stereolab and Moonshake among others. A blind American composer, musician, cosmologist and poet, Moondog also invented several musical instruments, including a small triangular-shaped harp known as the "Oo", another which he named the "Ooo-ya-tsu", and (perhaps his most well-known) the "Trimba", a triangular percussion instrument that the composer invented in the late 40s. Although these achievements would have been considered extraordinary for any blind person, Moondog further removed himself from society through his decision to make his home on the streets of New York for approximately twenty of the thirty years he spent in the city. Indeed, he was known for much of his life as 'The Viking of 6th Avenue'. Moondog had a particular interest in Native American music. He partially supported himself by selling copies of his poetry and his musical philosophy. Because of his street post's proximity to the famed 52nd Street nightclub strip, he was well-known to many jazz musicians and fans. Moondog's music took its inspiration from street sounds, such as the subway or a foghorn. He released a number of 78s, 45s and EPs of his music in the 1950s, as well as several LPs on a number of notable jazz labels, including an unusual record of stories for children with actress Julie Andrews in 1957. For ten years no new recordings were heard from Moondog until producer James William Guercio took him into the studio to record an album for Columbia Records in 1969. The track "Stamping Ground", with its odd preamble of Moondog saying one of his epigrams, was featured on the sampler double album Fill Your Head with Rock (CBS, 1970). The melody from the track "Bird's Lament (In memory of Charlie Parker)" was later sampled by Mr. Scruff as the basis for his song "Get A Move On", which was then used in commercials for the Lincoln Navigator SUV.

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