Monday, October 13, 2014

Currently Listening: Moondog

Moondog (née Louis Thomas Hardin) was a blind, white-bearded street performer who, from the mid-forties through the early seventies, dressed in norse-style clothing of his own making. He also invented several instruments and was an extremely influential jazz and classical composer. If this doesn’t interest you, I don’t know what’s wrong with you.

His music is a cultural hodgepodge, a strange mixture of medieval madrigals and modern jazz. Most pieces feature highly syncopated counterpoint and he also incorporates Japanese and Native American drums, spoken word and ambient sounds such as traffic, animal sounds and foghorns.

He was a regular at jazz clubs, especially at the influential 52nd Street string of nightclubs. Phillip Glass and Steve Reich have both acknowledged his influences (his minimalism for Glass, his syncopated rhythms and repetitions for Reich) and he performed with the New York and Brooklyn Philharmonics.

"Bird's Lament" is a track from one of his earlier albums, a soothing jazzy piece with a series of lilting horn refrains:

"Marimba Mambo 2" is a later piece of his work, from after he had moved to Germany, and is one of my all-time favs:

He also has a documentary coming out next year which, needless to say, I am quite excited about.

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