Tuesday, June 02, 2009

the viking of sixth avenue

The Music of Moondog @ Barbican, 30th May

It's no surprise that Louis Hardin became famous, inclined as he was to wander round the streets of Manhattan in Viking attire carrying a huge sword. That and playing strange and beautiful music on a selection of bizarre instruments, many his own inventions.

Moondog--for it is he--spent much of the 1950s and 60s doing these very things, mainly at the intersection of 53rd Street and 6th Avenue. At night he would sleep on nearby rooftops.

Positioned as he was near many concert venues and jazz clubs, musicians would often pass by and understandably his streetside performances aroused their curiosity. As a result, he went on to become an accepted part of the New York musical establishment, forging a particular friendship with Philip Glass, and eventually having many of his compositions performed in the concert hall.

In the 1990s, he collaborated with various British ensembles, and this tribute concert, held ten years after his death, features two of these: London Saxophonic and the Britten Sinfonia.

It's quite difficult to characterise his music: there are elements of big band jazz, sixties film soundtracks, Bach fugues and Mozart: the "Salzburg Symphony" is one work--of his total output of some 1,400 pieces--which has never been performed in public. Until tonight.

I reckon there's even a hint of a drum & bass rhythm in "Bird's Lament"...

More reading at Moondogmadness.

More tunes, you guessed it, at Spotify.

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