While I was the director of the Spectrum Gallery in NY a couple of years ago, I met Moondog. We staged a concert at the Gallery and Moondog and I were very closely associated for a few months preparing the concert and appearing on WBAI and other radio programs. In a flash I gathered up some photographs, press clippings and an out of print album on Prestige and ran down to WBCN. There Raeford, I, and Arden jimmied the lock and burst in on the DJ. He immediately played selections from the album and I rapped a bit about Moondog. When we left the studio, he taped a few cuts that you will be hearing on WBCN from time to tine,
After the American Revolution played Moondog, there were so many calls that it seemed a good time to give you some of the background of this interesting street musician.
Moondog, whose christian name is Lewis Hardin, hails from Wyoming. At the age of sixteen he was blinded in an accident with a dynamite cap. He studied at the Iowa School for the Blind where he concentrated in music and learned to play piano, violin and drums. Known primarily for his music, Moondog also writes couplets of poetry which he recites at poetry readings. Copies of the poems are for sale from him on the street.
The major influence in Moondog's life is his Gothic background. He likens himself to his Norse ancestors and effects their garb and speech. He is violently anti-christian and even a bit racist. This is the source of great conflict for Moondog. He handles his antagonists very aptly while standing on the corner dressed in his outrageous Viking garb. He uses a tall spear as his radar, picking his way adeptly through traffic.
He lives in a small decrepit hotel called the Hotel Aristo, 101 W 44th St. NYC. Although he makes a fairly good amount of money from begging, his expenses are very high as he pays a musician three dollars an hour to transpose his music from Braille to visual notation. His music is often complicated as he writes everything from string quartets, symphonies and Operas, These are performed from time to time by Merce Cunningham, and Martha Graham. Leonard Bernstein professed interest in a work but has never followed through on the offer,
Moondog has made a number of recordings for the Mars, Prestige, and Angel record companies. Only the Angel record, Tell It Again with Julie Andrews, is still available. He has been on the scene for some time and was even a bit of an underground favorite with musicians Charlie Parker, and Dizzy Gillespie during the Bop era.
During the summer, when the crowds thin out on the NY streets, if he has enough money, Moondog takes off for his farm near Poughkeepsie NY. There he has a primitive shack with no electricity, but Moondog loves the rustic life and knows every foot of his 151 acres.
The music of Moondog is a strange combination of Oriental phrasing and rhythms, sound effects, percussion and orchestrations in the Wagnerian tradition. Moondog's play, "Thor the Noordoom," was performed at the Cinematheque a couple of summers ago.
He plays instruments of his own invention, the Trimba and others. The Trimba is a set of two small triangular drums made of thick mahogany with skin stretched over the end. The larger of the two drums he beats with a maracca and the other is struck with a small ebony mallet.
Although Moondog has been married and divorced he never seems to lack for female companionship and he can often be seen nuzzling affectionately with one of his admirers. Moondog seems to thrive on controversy and gives no quarter to public opinion. If you are ever in NY make it a point to stop and rap with this strange Viking.
by CHARLES GIULIANO