In the early 1990s, Sony did issue a CD which combined the two albums they made in 1969 and 1971 with "classicist at heart" street musician Louis Hardin, better known as Moondog. The Sony reissue arrived at a time when interest in Moondog was at an all-time low, as he had lived in Germany for two decades and his popular first Columbia album had been out of print for nearly half that time; while his second album was so obscure it barely survived its initial release. This BGO Records reissue of same, Moondog/Moondog 2 debuted in England literally on the heels of news of Hardin's passing in 1999, and it is hard not to fault them for cashing in on stakes made liquid by the ever-unpredictable vicissitudes of the grim reaper. On the other hand, it is nice to have these two recordings available again, and as both albums were short to start with, both made for CBS, and both produced by James William Guercio, it is only natural that they should be combined onto one CD. The first LP, Moondog, features Moondog jamming with some of the top-flight studio musicians in New York on his own charts in an ambitiously scored bag reminiscent of a forgotten Epic LP from the '50s, Moondog and His Friends - difficult to reissue as, like its successors, it's really, really short. The second, the inaccurately titled Moondog 2, consists of 26 canons drawn from his first two collections of 100 canons each, composed in the '50s and '60s and printed up in editions Hardin sold hand to hand on the street. These are performed by a small group led by Hardin and include then-wife June Hardin, a small band of period instrument musicians, and Guercio himself pitching in with the percussion. The vast majority of critical notices you may read on these two albums favor the better selling Moondog over Moondog 2, but present company tends toward Moondog 2. It seems to epitomize Hardin's recorded work in regard to his "Art of the Canon," and serves to summarize this particular period in Hardin's development, given the dearth of any live recordings from this time. One aspect of Hardin's work for CBS that is intriguing is how well he and Guercio utilized the resources on hand at Columbia and how the Moondog fit into the CBS of the time. Some of the things on Moondog 2 are not terribly far away musically from what quirky pop groups like Matching Mole and Gentle Giant were recording on contemporary CBS albums that sold equally poorly, and at times Hardin's voice sounds coincidentally a little like Robert Wyatt's. Of course, in hindsight we recognize how great all of this stuff is, whereas in its time a lot of it went unrecognized by critics and public alike as the hippie-driven music scene gave way to the Nixon era.For many listeners, the first Moondog CBS album is his defining statement, even as what came before, and after, broaden the picture of Hardin's output considerably. To have a package like Moondog/Moondog 2 available is almost too good to be true, as it both delivers the basic goods on Hardin and opens the door to a broader appreciation of the truly special circumstance that was Moondog.
All Music Guide
========= from the cover ==========
Louis Harden, better known as Moondog, is an American original with a fondness for European culture, especially his own Nordic heritage. During the 1960s and 70s, Moondog, dressed in his coarse Viking garments with horned helmet and spear, was a regular feature on the corner of 54th Street and 6th Avenue in Manhattan. He sold mimeographed copies of his poetry and philosophized about most anything to anyone who cared to listen. He now lives in Europe where he is happily closer to his Scandinavian roots.
This disc consists of what were originally two separate albums: the first, issued in 1969, includes colorful orchestral works interspersed with some of Moondog's streetcorner contemplations; the second, from 1972, contains lively rounds, canons and catches. Viewed as a whole, the music displays Moon-dog's penchant for clarity of line and rhythmic vitality.
-Joseph R. Dalton
The following are excerpts from Moondog's original notes:
I was born in Marysville, Kansas, May 26, 1916....My first school was a log cabin in Burnt Fork, Wyoming, and my first teacher was my mother...My first drum set, at the age of five, was a cardboard box....In 1929, my dad [an Episcopal minister] sold the ranch and we moved east, eventually buying a farm in Hurley, Missouri. I played drums in Hurley High School. It was in Hurley that I lost my sight when a dynamite cap exploded....
I finished high school in the Iowa School for the Blind. There I got my first real formal training in music and heard my first classical music. I studied violin, viola, piano, pipe organ, harmony and sang bass in the choir.... But much of what I know about music was self-taught, by reading braille books on the subject, doing much listening for ear training, so I could write down the music I heard in my head. I am so self-trained that I write all my music away from any instrument. I do use the piano to test passages, but I do not rely on it....
I began using Moondog as a pen name in 1947, in honor of a dog I had in Hurley, Missouri, who used to howl at the moon more than any dog I knew of....
Though I was born in the United States, I consider myself "a European in exile," for my heart and soul are in Europe. I am a classicist at heart, and everything is classically conceived, in form, content and interpretation....! feel like I have one foot planted in America and one in Europe, or one in the present and one in the past. Rhythmically, I am considered to be in the present, even avant garde, whereas melodically and harmonically I am very much in the past. But the present becomes the past just as the future becomes the present. As I say in one of my lyrics, "Today is yesterday's tomorrow which is Theme was first recorded in 1952, following a period of buying up old instruments and working out the parts, and then finally dubbing them all in-reeds, brass, percussion and strings. It is not only a theme, but, it is my theme, a sort of musical signature....Stamping Ground is in D Minor, in the vein of Lament I, but the melodic line works itself into a canon, or the melodic line is a canon, and revels itself as such as the piece progresses....Symphonique #3 (Ode to Venus) is a twelve-part canon with a four-bar coda. With an implied reference to Tchaikovsky's "None But the Lonely Heart," it creates a very lush, impassioned contrapuntal texture, full of the joys and sorrows of love....Symphonique #6 (Good for Goodie), dedicated to Benny Goodman, is in the swing style, though classically conceived. The form is called a ground, that is, a theme played over and over in the bass. Counting the ground, this piece is in seventeen-part counterpoint-every eight bars a new part comes in, and, once in, keeps repeating its eight bars to the end. The first added part is for Goodie, and that part is played in the highest register of the clarinet on the last repeat, up high like Benny plays....Minisym #1: Mini-sym refers to either the orchestra or to a composition, like saying that a symphony plays a symphony. It has three short movements, each with a middle section or trio...lament I (Bird's Lament) was written in honor of Charlie Parker, on hearing of his death. It is a cha-conne, a four-bar accompaniment that is repeated over and over with a free melodic line over it, played by an alto sax, Bird's instrument, with an obbligato played on a baritone sax. Bird used to stop by my doorway back in 1951-2 and talk about music. One night I met him in Times Square and shook a shaking hand, not realizing that would be the last time we would meet.... Witch of Endor is part of a ballet that I wrote for Martha Graham. It begins and ends in 5/4 time, dances by the witch. The trio consists of three parts: 1. The witch's prophecy of Saul's death; 2. An idealized depiction of the battle on the mountain, and Saul, realizing he is losing it, decides to take his own life by falling on his own sword, held by a soldier; 3. The death of Saul ...Symphonique #1 (Portrait of a Monarch) is a symphonic synthesis, a musical portrait of Thor the Nordoom, Emperor of Earth, a fictitious person but nonetheless factual. By means of having a monopoly on the world's gold supply, he rules from behind the scene, by means of agents and double agents. It opens vigorously, imperiously, depicting his absolute power; then comes the section showing his jocular side, a robust good humor; then a return to the towering strength of his personality, closing with a long chord, diminishing to a whisper, for he is one who knows peace and calm, the peace and calm of one who crushes all opposition to his will....
I began writing rounds in the late winter or early spring of 1951. I vaguely remember writing my first one, "All is Loneliness," in a doorway on 51st Street between 7th Avenue and Broadway. For the next year or two I wrote about six dozen rounds, in fives and sevens.... In 1968, when I heard that Big Brother and The Holding Company had recorded "All is Loneliness," I took to writing them again, this time concentrating on rounds in more conventional meters of 4/4, 2/4, 3/4. The rounds of the earlier fifties were all four-part, each having a compass of an octave. In the new rounds I did not limit myself to four-part nor to the compass of an octave.
The four-part rounds of Book I, all of the early fifties, are 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 11, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 20, 22 and 23. The rest of Book I was written in June of 1968. Of these, the five-part rounds are 1, 10, 19, 21, 24 and 25. The six-part are 7 and 12. The seven-part is 3.
By July 1968 I had Book I printed up and was selling it on the street. One September evening a young man fell by the Warwick and started rapping. It was Jim Guercio. I laid a copy of Book I on him, never expecting anything would come of it. A year later he came by again with a man from Columbia Records. So three years after laying Book I on him, he recorded it and brought it out. Book I is the first of a series of nine finished books, each book having twenty-five rounds in it.
The round, the strictest of all canonic forms, has a tradition that goes back hundreds of years in European musical history. Rounds are eternal, they stop only when you stop repeating them. Perhaps the first rounds I ever heard in my childhood were "Three Blind Mice" and "Row, Row, Row Your Boat."
All the instruments used on this [portion of the] record are acoustical, some old and some new. Of the old we used primitive pipe organ, virginal, harpsichord, recorder and viola da gamba. The modern instruments used were piano, celeste and guitar. The voices are my daughter June and myself, made to sound like a chorus by overdubbing. We both sing with straight tone, without vibrato, a sort of classical folk, almost ecclesiastical, or right out of Monteverdi.
The following are the musicians who participated in making this record: June Hardin: vocals, percussion; Louis Hardin: vocals, percussion; Kay Jaffee: virginal, recorders, piano, harpsichord, ancient organ; Michael Jaffee: recorders, guitar; Stephen Silverstein: schom; Judith Davidoff: viola da gamba. Another instrument used on the record is the troubadour harp, a harp without foot pedals, played by Gillian Stephens. She plays the chaconne entitled "Pastorale" that I wrote for her in the fall of 1970. In certain of the percussion tracks Jim sat in, doing a solo ad lib part against my drums for 22, also sitting in with June, me and others when percussion was recorded for 11, 14, and 18.
Though the pieces are all rounds, I call them "madrigals" which range far afield in subject matter, compared to the early madrigals which deal mainly with love.