Thursday, October 6, 2011

Moondog - Bird's Lament and Symphonique No. 3 'Ode To Venus'

Moondog, alias of Louis Thomas Hardin (1916-1999)  was an American composer, musician , poet and street performer.  He was blinded in a farming accident when he was sixteen. He lived as a street musician and poet in New York City from the late 1940's to 1974. He was also known as the "Viking of 6th Avenue" because he performed a lot on the corner of 6th Avenue and 53rd Street, and he dressed in clothes in imitation of the Norse God Thor and wore a horn helmet he designed himself.  He took the name Moondog sometime in the 1940's.

That Moondog was an eccentric is an understatement. But he was also a serious musician. He was basically self-taught and composed in a wide-open style that showed influences of street sounds, jazz, classical and the blues.  Leonard Bernstein, Arturo Toscanini, Benny Goodman and Charlie Parker all knew of him.

In his search for new sounds, he also invented musical instruments, the most famous being the Trimba, a percussion instrument.  Distraught over the death of his friend Charlie 'Bird' Parker, the famous saxophonist, Moondog wrote Bird's Lament. The piece is usually played by saxophones and percussion, but it has also been played by many other instrument combinations.

Moondog's  Bird's Lament:

Symphonique #3 (Ode To Venus) is written for chamber ensemble of strings and winds. It begins quite simply, and layer upon layer of instrumental timbers and textures until it reaches a climax and the piece ends.  Moondog's music can be simple, but the simplicity can be deceiving.  I personally find his music hard to pigeon hole, but very enjoyable.

Symhonique #3 (Ode To Venus) by Moondog:


  1. I used to pass by the corner he dominated with his music almost every day when I worked in that area. He was an imposing, somewhat disconcerting figure, but his music was fascinating. I've been living in Southern California for almost 25 years and haven't thought of Moondog in decades. Thanks for reviving his memory.

  2. Now that I think of it, I actually owned and enjoyed an LP of his music. So long ago...

  3. Let me not forget to tell you how much I enjoy your informed Musical Musings. Please keep them coming.

  4. Can't put my feeling into words
    His music is so inspiring