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Moondog's tomb in the central cemetery in Münster, designed by Ernst Fuchs after the death mask

Moondog (born May 26, 1916 as Louis Thomas Hardin in Marysville , Kansas , † September 8, 1999 in Munster ) was an American composer and musician.



Louis Thomas Hardin was born the son of a traveling preacher of the Episcopal Church and a teacher. As a result of his father's changing locations, he spent his youth in a variety of locations in the Midwest (in Wisconsin , Wyoming and Missouri ) as well as in North Carolina . According to Hardin, the childhood and adolescent experience of never really settling down has shaped his thirst for freedom and his non-bourgeois, immobile way of life. He described himself as a “European in exile”: “It had to do with my love for classical music from the Old World .” The second reason he gave was that his family on his mother's side came from Germany and his father's side from Scandinavia.

At the age of sixteen, Hardin lost sight in an explosion while handling a dynamite capsule that had washed up between railroad tracks in a flood. At a school for the blind in Iowa he came into contact with classical music and received his first musical training. In retrospect, Hardin saw the accident as an opportunity: “Without the accident, I would probably never have had the opportunity to become a musician.” He learned violin , viola , piano , organ , choir singing and harmony and continued to study autodidactically by reading what was about him Music theme was accessible in Braille . At the same time he practiced drumming. His older sister once read him a book about a European composer, after which - as he later told - he decided to become a composer too. He perfected his ear training so that he could translate musical ideas straight from his head into Braille. Almost all of his compositions were created without an instrument.

In New York

In 1943 Hardin moved to the “ Big Apple ”, where he led a street life as a poet and musician clochard . He adopted the name “Moondog” in 1947 after his guide dog, which, according to Hardin, “howled at the moon more than any other dog I knew”.

Until the early 1970s, he was mostly to be found in Manhattan on the corner of 6th Avenue and 54th Street. He beat the drum, played his compositions on a zither , recited little poems, all in the classical, strict form of couplets , rhyming pairs, and sold them to passers-by. Fascinated by reading the Edda , he put on a Viking outfit . Old photos show the admirer of Nordic mythology with a flowing beard, a wide cloak, a long spear and a horned helmet. Suspected by some passers-by as an eccentric eccentric or even a charlatan, but highly respected by numerous artists, Moondog soon became something of an institution on the streets of Manhattan. One of the anecdotes around him is that the Hilton hotel ran ads in the New York Times stating its address as "across from Moondog."

First recognition as a musician

If Hardin made the street his home, he wasn't socially isolated or a tramp. He met musicians from the New York Philharmonic on the street , who introduced him to their conductor Artur Rodziński . He invited him to attend the orchestral rehearsals in Carnegie Hall , where Moondog went in and out for years and learned a lot about orchestration . He met Arturo Toscanini , Igor Stravinsky and Leonard Bernstein . For Bernstein he was “that strange genius that stands on the corner down there”. After Rodziński's departure in 1947, Moondog was no longer so popular at Carnegie Hall. On his street corners he met Charlie Parker , who suggested: "You and I should make a record together" - a project that could no longer be realized after Parker's sudden death.

1949/1950 published Moondogs first recordings on which he oboe , clarinet , maracas , claves , gourds - rattling plays and other percussion instruments and singing. With Julie Andrews he released a very successful record of children's songs on Angel Records in 1955. With Charles Mingus he gave a concert at the Whitney Museum of American Art , with Allen Ginsberg a poetry reading. Janis Joplin and Big Brother and the Holding Company recorded his madrigal All Is Loneliness in 1968 . "You screwed it up," said Moondog later. The labels Mars, Prestige and Epic published records with his music. In the late 1960s he made two albums for Columbia Records (CBS).

Relocation to Germany

Suddenly Moondog disappeared from the streets of New York. Some thought he was dead. On a TV talk show, Paul Simon regretted one of his great musical idols, Moondog, had passed away. In fact, through the mediation of a friend, the organist Paul Jordan , Moondog was invited by Hessischer Rundfunk to two concerts in 1974 under the heading “Bach, Moondog & Bach” in the Peterskirche in Weinheim and in Frankfurt am Main and then stayed in Germany: originally wanted to go back immediately after the concert. But when I was here, I was so impressed by the people, by their friendliness, their warmth, the whole atmosphere, that I decided not to go back to the USA. "

In Hamburg , Hanover and a little later in Recklinghausen , he continued his street music life, drummed in the pedestrian zones and sold his poems. He came to Recklinghausen because a young musician, Tom Klatt, had read that Moondog would have to leave Germany if there were no follow-up appearances after the Frankfurt concert, and then invited him.

Support and management by Ilona Sommer

In 1977, the student Ilona Goebel (* 1951, later Ilona Sommer) approached him at his regular place in Recklinghausen's old town and invited him, initially for a few days, to his parents' house in the neighboring town of Oer-Erkenschwick : “My eleven year old Brother wanted to take him home for Christmas dinner because he felt so sorry for him. But none of the family dared to ask him. And then I saw a record of his music - orchestral pieces played by 45 musicians with a lot of soloists. I bought it. When I heard his music for the first time, I was moved. I couldn't believe that someone who can write music like this has to live like him. So I invited him home. "

Ilona Sommer talked him out of the Viking outfit and gave him a taste for a more bourgeois life. She gave up her geology studies, took him into her care and turned the house in Oer-Erkenschwick into a creative place of composition for Louis Hardin. She learned to translate his compositions from the blind into normal notation , and from then on accompanied Moondog on his concert appearances. She founded the music publisher Managarm for the works of Moondog.

In the late 1970s Roof Music released three Moondog LPs on his label Kopf Records. After that, it became quiet around him in terms of publications. However, Moondog continued to compose tirelessly, so that his work grew to 50 symphonies and countless smaller pieces.

Moondog often played (and conducted) in his German years in Recklinghausen in the Altstadtschmiede and in the "alternative" inn "Baum", at concerts in Münster and at the Witten Days for New Chamber Music .

"Rediscovery" and media coverage

15 years after leaving the USA, Moondog made a highly regarded comeback in New York in 1989. The tenth New Music America Festival invited him to perform some of his compositions. At the concert, which took place on November 16 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music under the motto Meet The Moderns , a. also premieres of symphonic works by Butch Morris and John Zorn on the program. In a series of musical dedications to musicians he once knew ( Benny Goodman , Lester Young , Charlie Parker , Artur Rodziński), as well as to the cities of New York and Paris, Moondog conducted the Brooklyn Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra.

The media coverage of Moondog's return was exuberant. The New York Times and the weekly People magazine welcomed him in lengthy articles. A review of the concert in New York's Newsday newspaper said: “Only nine short numbers by the blind, fork-bearded Moondog brought the evening to life. For the 75-year-old, the New York comeback could only be the beginning of a new career. ”CBS and ROOF Music re-released his earlier records as CDs.

The pop chansonnier Stephan Eicher used him for an instrumental arrangement of the “ Guggisbergerlied ” on his album “My Place” , and musicians from the Guildhall School of Music performed a number of his saxophone works on the occasion of Moondog's 75th birthday in May in London and Dartington Hall .

In January 1992 the American Ballet Theater performed orchestral works by Moondog in Hollywood, Washington (Kennedy Center) and at the New York Metropolitan Opera .

Late work

In 1992 Moondog released a new album: "Sax Pax For a Sax", recorded in Bath, England with the London Saxophonic Ensemble , which caused storms of enthusiasm in Great Britain and Germany. a. at the Documenta in Kassel and at the Moers Festival . In addition to David Lord as a producer with Danny Thompson and Peter Hammill, other greats from the English music world were involved in the production. In 1997 the album was released in the USA ( Atlantic Records ).

Two years later, Moondog died of heart failure in Münster. He is buried in the central cemetery in Münster . His tomb was designed by the artist Ernst Fuchs after the death mask. Ilona Sommer died in Münster in 2011 and was buried in the same grave as Moondog.

Estate, rights

Most of Moondog's works are now published in the Managram music publishing house founded by Ilona Sommer. According to Louis Hardin's last will, his entire oeuvre was looked after and administered by her or the music publisher. Since her death in 2011, the Berlin lawyer Alexander Duve has managed all rights to Louis Hardin's work as executor worldwide.

Style, composition technique

Moondog saw himself as a classicist: “I am ultra-conservative. I rebel against the rebels. For me, the rebels are the atonalists and polytonalists . I stay true to the tonality and the old forms because I think that their possibilities have not been exhausted and can never be exhausted. ”His compositional ideal was counterpoint . “Whether saxophones dance a jazzy chaconne , happy couplets alternate with dreamy treasures based on music boxes, catchy jingles for imaginary TV series follow organ works - Moondog's music is singular and at the same time all-encompassing, very simple and strictly thought-out.” “The canon is Moondog's original musical substance that appears in a variety of traditional European garb: From madrigals to classical symphony to twelve-tone music, everything can be found in Moondog's oeuvre, albeit in original adaptations. "Moondog worked, like the minimalists , with repetitive patterns, but he always followed the laws of counterpoint, while the tendencies of New Music towards atonality and electronics were a compositional horror to him.

Classic techniques led to an unclassical result for him. He composed so consistently conservatively that it almost seemed revolutionary again. In the formal rigor he found his musical freedom. Moondog: “It seems to me that I have one foot in America and the other in Europe, or one foot in the present and the other in the past. Rhythmically I could be attributed to the present, yes, to the avant-garde; melodically and harmonically, on the other hand, I am very far in the past. "


Whether songs or orchestral pieces, canons or madrigals, works for organ or for chamber ensemble - Moondog's music is almost always accompanied by peculiar percussion rhythms, which he himself beat consistently on a triangular drum - the " Trimba ". Moondog was referring to traditional Native American rhythms that he learned as a child on the Arapaho reservations of Wyoming, where his father had occasionally taken him on mission trips. He liked to talk about how he was allowed to sit on Chief Yellow Calf's lap and beat the big sun dance drum. His predilection for percussion never left him. The "Indian Beats" became a kind of heartbeat in his music.

Conducting style

Moondog's unusual conducting style was noticed during his appearances in Germany . He did not play the traditional role of the conducting authority figure, but sat to the side of the orchestra and played the beat on a drum. In an interview he commented on this: “I am the first to see myself among equals. There are practically 40 conductors, and everyone is responsible for their own part as well as for the entire performance. Orchestra musicians respond positively to this idea. There are no time changes in my music. If I start in 4/4, I also stop in 4/4. All you have to do is count through. Only when absolutely necessary do I wave my hand. But consistently, once they start, I don't even want them to look at me. You should concentrate on your part. "


  • In Austria came Moondogs Bird's Lament (on various compilations as "Lament I") to prominence as the theme music to the former ORF telecast trailer with Frank Hoffmann - could be heard - something faster.
  • By disco remixes grade "Get a move on" the English DJ Mr. Scruff and "Night at the dogs" by also English DJ Jesse Rose was Bird's Lament also rediscovered on the dance floors.
  • The American band Moondogg around the singer Elizabeth Westwood named themselves after Moondog.
  • The original sound and rhythm of Moondog's Trimba is conveyed today by the Swedish percussionist and Moondog student Stefan Lakatos , who learned to build and play this instrument from his long-time friend Louis Hardin.
  • In February 2006 the Bochum harpist Xenia Narati released the CD "Moondog Sharp Harp", on which she performed six compositions by Moondog as first recordings.
  • In 2020 the composer Thies Mynther presented the installation Moonmachine in the Kunsthalle Münster, which played a score by Moondog.


  • In Recklinghausen, a memorial plaque in the Breite Straße, where he used to stand for years, commemorates Moondog.
  • On the 10th anniversary of his death on September 8, 2009, WDR 5 broadcast a ZeitZeichen , see also the entry under web links .


  • Snaketime Rhythms, SMC Pro Arte, 1949/1950
  • Moondog's Symphony, SMC Pro Arte, 1949/1950
  • Organ Rounds, SMC Pro Arte, 1949/1950
  • Oboe Rounds, Chant, Loneliness, Wildwood, SMC Pro Arte, 1949/1950
  • Moondog and His Friends, Epic, 1953.
  • Moondog, Prestige, 1956.
  • More Moondog, Prestige, 1956.
  • The Story of Moondog, Prestige, 1957.
  • Tell It Again (with Julie Andrews), Angel / Capital, 1957 (Reissue: Poppy Disc, 2009)
  • Moondog, Columbia, 1969.
  • Moondog 2, Columbia, 1971.
  • Moondog in Europe, Kopf, 1977 (Reissue: Roof Music, 1999)
  • H'art Songs, Head, 1978 (Reissue: Roof Music, 1999)
  • Moondog: Instrumental Music by Louis Hardin, Musical Heritage Society, 1978.
  • A New Sound of an Old Instrument, Kopf, 1979 (Reissue: Roof Music, 1999)
  • Facets, Managarm, 1981.
  • Bracelli, Kakaphone, 1986.
  • Moondog. Sis (Sony BMG), Sis (Sony BMG) 1995.
  • Elpmas, Kopf Records & Roof Music, 1991, KD 123314
  • The German Years (1977-1999), ROOF Music, 2004, RD 2433221
  • Rare Material, ROOF Music, 2006, RD 2633272
  • Moondog: Pastoral Suite; Surf session. Moondog's Corner, 2005.
  • Viking on Sixth Avenue, Honest Jon, 2005.
  • Sax Pax for a Sax, Megaphone, 2007.


(in order of appearance)

  • Hans-Joachim Krüger: Moondog's Odyssey: Europeans in Exile. In: Sounds. The magazine for pop music. 1974, issue 5 (online at , section Interviews, accessed on April 29, 2014)
  • Heinz Kosters: Moondog - legacy of a big heart. In: Vestischer Calendar. Vol. 51 (1978), pp. 61-64.
  • Michael Rüsenberg: “I'm in the world, but not of it.” A conversation with Moondog. In: Rock Session. Popular music magazine. ISSN  0721-0531 , vol. 1979, issue 3, pp. 144-154.
  • Tom Klatt: Moondog in Europe. Classical and hippie music - how does that go together? An interview with the conducting hippie Moondog. In: Zero. Vol. 9 (1980), No. 17, pp. 46-48.
  • Albrecht Piltz: Moondog - rebel against the rebels. In: keyboards. ISSN  0178-4641 , Vol. 8 (1994), pp. 16-30.
  • Robert Scotto: Moondog, The viking of 6th Avenue. The authorized biography. Process Media, Port Townsend 2007, ISBN 978-0-9760822-8-6 .
  • Hein Schlueter: From 6th Avenue to Breite Strasse: Moondog in Recklinghausen. In: Vestischer Calendar. Vol. 84 (2011), pp. 245-253.
  • Arne Blum, Wolfgang Gnida: A collection for the 99th birthday of the American composer and musician Moondog . Arne Blum, Berlin / Wolfgang Gnida Bottrop 2015, ISBN 978-3-00-048622-7 .
  • Danny Kringiel: Homeless composer Moondog. The Viking of Manhattan , in: Spiegel Online , May 26, 2016 ( online )


British director Holly Elson is working on a documentary about Moondog entitled The Viking of 6th Avenue , which primarily shows Moondog's years in the USA, but also brings up his companions in Recklinghausen and Oer-Erkenschwick and their memories of Louis Thomas Hardin should.

Web links

References and footnotes

  1. Heinz Kosters: Moondog - legacy of a big heart. In: Vestischer Calendar. Vol. 51 (1978), pp. 61-64.
  2. a b c d e f Albrecht Piltz: Moondog - rebel against the rebels. In: keyboards. Vol. 8 (1994), pp. 16-30.
  3. a b Interview with Hans-Joachim Krüger: Moondog's Odyssey: Europeans in Exile. In: Sounds. The magazine for pop music. 1974, issue 5.
  4. artist page at ROOF Music. (No longer available online.) Archived from the original on April 30, 2014 ; Retrieved January 29, 2011 . Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  5. a b c Karin Steinberger: God near the ninth overtone. Manically creative in the Ruhr area. Louis Thomas Hardin, called Moondog, on his music and a supernatural theory . In: Süddeutsche Zeitung of September 6, 1997, weekend supplement, p. VII.
  6. album cover of Moondog , Columbia Records, 1969: "I started using Moondog as a pen name in 1947 in honor of a dog I had in Hurley, who used to howl at the moon more than any dog I knew of."
  7. ^ Robert Scotto: Moondog, The viking of 6th Avenue . Process Media, Port Townsend 2007, p. 91.
  8. Halina Rodzinski: Our two lives . Scribner, New York 1976, ISBN 0-684-14511-1 , pp. 247 f.
  9. a b Michael Rüsenberg: "I'm in the world, but not of it." A conversation with Moondog. In: Rock Session. Popular music magazine. 1979, No. 3, pp. 144-154.
  10. ^ Robert Scotto: Moondog, The viking of 6th Avenue . Process Media, Port Townsend 2007, p. 99 f.
  11. Veronika Kreuzhage: From the courage to individuality. Moondog in the Peterskirche. In: Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung. 23rd January 1974.
  12. ^ Robert Scotto: Moondog, The viking of 6th Avenue . Process Media, Port Townsend 2007, pp. 228-231.
  13. ^ Hein Schlueter: From 6th Avenue to Breite Strasse: Moondog in Recklinghausen. In: Vestischer Calendar. Vol. 84 (2011), pp. 245-253, here p. 249.
  14. a b Gerhard Emmer: Central Cemetery Münster - Moondog. Kulturforum Blog, June 23, 2015, accessed March 5, 2017 .
  15. ^ Hein Schlueter: From 6th Avenue to Breite Strasse: Moondog in Recklinghausen. In: Vestischer Calendar. Vol. 84 (2011), pp. 245-253, here p. 250.
  16. ^ Moondog - Biography , accessed April 29, 2014.
  17. ^ Adele Riepe: 'Moondog' Refines Music in Germany . In: New York Times. January 3, 1979, p. C18 (“in an uninspiring little town in West Germany ... a composer's paradise”).
  18. Peter Kemper: The great timpani. On the death of Louis T. Hardin alias "Moondog" : In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. September 13, 1999.
  19. ^ Peter Goodman: Avant Works For Symphony. In: Newsday. November 18, 1989, pp. 15-17, accessed April 29, 2014.
  20. The music publisher is named after the dog Managarm (Old Norse: moon dog) mentioned in Nordic mythology .
  21. ^ Konrad Heidkamp: Moondog. Brook on 6th Avenue. In: The time. August 26, 2004.
  22. Arne Blum: Moondog - life and work. , accessed April 29, 2014.
  23. Quoted in the program of the concert with works by Moondog on February 10, 2008 in Münster, Städtische Bühnen.
  24. Volker Schmidt: Moondog. A Viking in Oer-Erkenschwick. In: The time. (online), September 7, 2009.
  25. Frank Hoffmann. The adventurous life of Louis Thomas Hardin alias "Moondog". In: Ö1 Jazznacht, ORF-Radio Ö1, November 5, 2016, 11:15 pm - midnight.
  26. ^ Sound installation in Münster: Homage to the street musician Moondog. In: Deutschlandfunk Kultur. February 10, 2020, accessed February 15, 2020 .
  27. ^ Hein Schlueter: From 6th Avenue to Breite Strasse: Moondog in Recklinghausen. In: Vestischer Calendar. Vol. 84 (2011), pp. 245-253, here p. 252.
  28. ^ The Viking of 6th Avenue website , accessed November 7, 2019.
  29. Vimeo Moondog - We did it! - Holly Elson , accessed November 7, 2019.