Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Moondog - 1969 - Moondog


01. Theme 2:34
02. Stamping Ground 2:36
03. Symphonique #3 5:48
(Ode to Venus)
04. Symphonique #6 2:44
(Good for Goodie)
05. Cuplet 0:08
06. Minisym #1 5:42
I - Allegro
II - Andante
III - Vivace
07. Lament I, "Bird´s Lament" 1:41
08. Witch if Endor 6:27
I - Dance
II - Trio: A. Adagio (The Prophesy), B. Andante (The Battle), C. Agitato (Saul´s Death)
III - Dance (Reprise)
09. Symphonique #1 2:34
(Portrait of a Monarch)

Composed By Louis Hardin
Baritone Saxophone – Wally Kane
Bass – Alfred Brown, George Duvivier, Louis Hardin, Ron Carter
Bass Clarinet – Ernie Bright
Bass Trombone – Paul Faulise
Bassoon – Don Macourt, George Berg, Jack Knitzer, Joyce Kelly, Ryohei Nakagawa, Wally Kane
Cello – Charles McCracken, George Ricci
Clarinet – George Silfies, Jimmy Abato, Phil Bodner
Contrabass – Joe Tekula
English Horn – Henry Shuman, Irving Horowitz
Flugelhorn [Flügelhorn] – Joe Wilder
Flute – Andrew Lolya, Harold Bennett
French Horn – Brooks Tillotson, James Buffington, Ray Alonge, Richard Berg
Percussion – Bob Rosengarden, Dave Carey, Elayne Jones, Jack Jennings
Piccolo Flute – Harold Jones, Hubert Laws
Tenor Vocals [Tenore] – Eugene Becker, Raoul Poliakin
Trombone [Tenor] – Buddy Morrow, Charles Small, Tony Studd
Trumpet – Alan Dean, Joe Wilder, Mel Broiles, Teddy Weiss
Trumpet [Bass] – Danny Repole
Tuba – Bill Stanley, Don Butterfield
Tuba [Tenor] – Bill Elton, Bill Stanley, John Swallow, Phil Giardina
Viola – David Schwartz, Emanuel Vardi, Eugene Becker, Raoul Poliakin
Violin – Aaron Rosand, Paul Gershman

Cover Notes
(Notes from the CD-release): Louis Hardin, 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 Moondog´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 ... I 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 now ...

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: Minisym 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 chaconne, 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 obligato played on a baritone sax. Bird used to stop by my door-way 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: I. 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 bis 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 ...

- Moondog

There's a lot to this album. Not only can it be very harmonic and orchestral when it wants to (and it does), it can also be extremely jazzy and rhythmic when it wants to (and it does). Despite boasting around fifty musicians this album manages to sound relatively low-budget at times, and that is honestly one of the best features of this album. A clashing of two genres, Modern Classical and Jazz, would probably give an impression of a big menagerie of sound and culture swirling around in a glorious battle for the dominance Silly Symphony style, but no the very minimalist approach works so unbelievably well.

It's an absolute joy to hear an album that have songs like "Ode to Venus" (being a very somber and harmonious violin track that sounds a lot like "Somewhere Over the Rainbow"), being followed by "Good for Goodie" (a fairly light-footed tapping jazz song with a lot woodwinds). An in that sense it's a bit of a weird album. It's fairly accessible, and if I showed this to my friends who aren't that into music, they probably would think decently enough of it, but the way the pieces are put together are fairly odd (in a good way) when you stop to think about it, again because of the very heavy Third Stream approach, and just some of the odder choices. There are these two voice-over bits that I'm having a hard time deciphering. "Machines were mice and men were lions once upon a time, but now that it's the opposite, it's twice upon a time." I sort of get the gist of the sentence, but the "once and twice upon a time" thing still eludes me.

The A side is really good, but by god the B side is absolutely fantastic. "Minisym #1" is great, "Bird's Lament" is great (and everybody knows it), and "Witch of Endor" is downright fantastic. The only major downside here (and to the album in general) is that "Portait of a Monarch" shouldn't have been the last track. It's a decent track, I really like it, but it would have fit better at the start of the B side rather than the end really.

A thing that makes this album fairly unique in comparisons to the rest of the prominent Third Stream albums, is that the other albums took orchestral instrumentation (violins, clarinets, and such) and put it in a Jazz context and melody. Moondog did the opposite, and took a lot of Jazz instruments and arrangements and made it into a fairly impressive 30-minute Classical symphony, with a bit of Jazz sprinkled in here and there, and I really adore it for that.

1 comment:

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