Saturday, December 21, 2013
Moondog More Moondog Prestige (4 Men With Beards 2009 Repress) 1956
The eccentric figure known as Moondog was born Louis Thomas Hardin in Marysville, Kansas in 1916. He was moved to Wyoming as a young child, but would later move back to Southern Missouri where he lost his sight in a farming accident.
His father seemed like a pretty cool guy, he got his son to Iowa for specialized schooling for the blind. There he began studying music. It's documented that Moondog's father previously introduced Native American music to his son and encouraged his musical ability at a much earlier age. As an adult he moved to New York and became the eccentric figure that made him famous. He designed his own clothes that were modeled after the the Norse God Odin and parked himself on the streets of Manhattan. He became known as the Viking of 6th Avenue for his appearance which was always bearded and wearing a helmet adorned with horns. He did have an actual apartment of his own that was funded by his street performing, selling of compositions, and his own records, but oddly, he choose to live on the streets. As a musician, he was respected by artists in the classical cannon and jazz scene of the day. His records were primarily released by the, Prestige which was known mostly as a jazz label.
It's a far more interesting story than my quick synopsis, but the main point is this guy was an eccentric genius and from Kansas. That's rad. For the 1950's, this was highly experimental. Today, it doesn't sound as alien, it's very percussion and rhythm heavy, it relies on street sounds and uses those sounds to create music rather than just add effect, there's also spoken word elements. It's also very minimalist and sparse, his music is centered around rhythm and accompaniment is almost exclusively percussion instruments (some of which were invented by Moondog) with the occasional piano, wind or brass instrument or a vocal track. Again, today some of these practices have become commonplace, but Moondog was avant-garde for the time. Further, he also had the ability to take his ideas and condense them it into 3 minutes songs that appeal to a casual listener so despite his radical ideas, he never freaked people out with his compositions. Those that were influenced by his music would handle that.