Good for Goodie
August 29, 2006 9:14 AM   Subscribe

However interesting your life is, it probably pales in comparison to Moondog. A homeless, blind composer who transcribed in braille, he went from a career as a street corner musician in New York, to sitting in Carnegie Hall for rehersals at the invitation of Artur Rodzinski, he was invited to Germany and wrote a symphony for four conductors: "The Overtone Tree", he was covered by Janis Joplin and worked with Julie Andrews. (mi)
posted by 1f2frfbf (13 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Born Louis Hardin to a missionary in Kansas, he learned music at the Iowa School for the Blind, and travelled to New York, to perform on street conrers. When Alan Freed started using his name and recordings without permission, he sued in court for the use and Igor Stravinsky called the judge as an amicus to simply request, "Take care of this man, he's a musician".

He invented instruments to capture the sounds in his head, the "Oo", a small triangular shaped harp, and the "Trimba", a triangular percussion instrument.

He returned to America from his self imposed exile in Germany in 1989 at the behest of New Music America Festival in Brooklyn and was introduced to a new generation of musicians, including Philip Glass who called him, "the first minimlaist". As for where he felt he fit in the canon of music, well, he put it best when he said, "I play tonalities." He passed away in 1999 and was remembered by the New York Times as a "street performer and...avant-garde composer."
posted by 1f2frfbf at 9:15 AM on August 29, 2006 [2 favorites]

All is Loneliness
posted by caddis at 9:21 AM on August 29, 2006

By the way, that is the way to do a multi-link post - very nice
posted by caddis at 9:23 AM on August 29, 2006

And he composed the little riff that got sampled by Mr. Scruff and got put into every godawful Lincoln Navigator commercial for the past three years. I put the original on one of my MeFi Swap mixes a while ago.
posted by zsazsa at 9:25 AM on August 29, 2006

The album that riff came from, "Sax Pax for a Sax," is quite lovely. It swings from uptempo to mournful to full-throated calls of "I'm alive and it's wonderful!" Worth checking out.
posted by RakDaddy at 9:47 AM on August 29, 2006

i've heard a couple of his albums ... they're worth hearing ... he was very much into counterpoint at times
posted by pyramid termite at 9:53 AM on August 29, 2006

For anyone who wants to get some of his records, some are available at emusic for cheap.

Nice post.
posted by dobbs at 10:29 AM on August 29, 2006

* Errata / Addenda *

minimlaist=minimalist (d'oh)

Mentioned in passing here and here, both of whom provided excellent sources. Credit where due.

Moondog's Corner contains much more, but I distilled it a bit.

Finally, it's worth seeking out the Oxford American 7th Annual Music Issue which contains an excellent article on him which was where I first learned of him, and where I stole the opening line for this post.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 10:35 AM on August 29, 2006

Nice post. Didn't know about the Julie Andrews thing - the mind boggles.

Moondog & His Honking Geese Playing Moondog's Music is one of the best records I've bought in yonks - the Honest John's reissues are all worth picking up, in fact.

Didn't know about the Julie Andrews thing - the mind boggles.
posted by jack_mo at 11:20 AM on August 29, 2006

35 years ago I ran into Moondog . . . literally. He was doing his street poet thing and I was hustling around a corner not watching where I was going. I was startled almost as much as he was gracious.
posted by ahimsakid at 11:53 AM on August 29, 2006

BTW, here's what he looked like when I met him.
posted by ahimsakid at 11:57 AM on August 29, 2006

(+ fav), just a small yay as I don't think moondog gets enough exposure. so yay!
posted by edgeways at 1:35 PM on August 29, 2006

My Father would take me to see moondog when he was a stret musician in the 1960s, durirng walks around Manhatten. My Pop was a cop, and all the cops loved him. He wore a Viking hat and was just... out there. Unforgetable.
posted by zaelic at 4:16 PM on August 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

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