Songs and Symphoniques: The Music of Moondog, a collaboration between Kronos and the Brooklyn-based Ghost Train Orchestra, is out today on Cantaloupe Records. The album features new re-imaginings of the music of Louis Hardin, a.k.a. Moondog, the blind composer who lived on the streets of Manhattan and became a fixture on 6th Avenue, dressed in striking Viking attire while selling his records and reciting poetry. His beautiful and haunting madrigals, songs, and symphoniques inspired Philip Glass and Steve Reich, who called Moondog “the godfather of minimalism.”
Featuring a diverse cast of special guests, Songs and Symphoniques showcases the work of five arrangers from Ghost Train Orchestra revisiting Moondog’s vital and uplifting music for a new generation.
Born in Kansas to an Episcopalian minister and largely self-taught as a composer, Moondog wrote dozens of beautiful songs, madrigals, and symphonies which drew inspiration from classical, jazz, Native American music, Latin American music, and Indian ragas. Blinded as a teenager, he moved to New York City in the late 40s and lived there until 1972, during which time he was often found on 6th Avenue appearing in a cloak and horned helmet by thousands of passersby and residents unaware of his musical career. He became an underground folk hero in New York City after he signed with Columbia and released his 1969 record Moondog. He moved to Germany in the 70s and lived there until his death in 1999.
Ghost Train Orchestra and Kronos Quartet recorded before and during the pandemic to bring to life new vivid arrangements of Moondog’s music by musical director Brian Carpenter and members of Ghost Train Orchestra Matt Bauder, David Cossin, Curtis Hasselbring, Andy Laster, and Maxim Moston. These new arrangements provide a new vision into the world of Moondog, expanding the darkness, beauty, and humor in the original pieces (in some cases originally written for solo piano and newly arranged for orchestra.)