Moondog - Sound Of New York


2018053120180929 (R4)New Yorker Huey Morgan examines the life, work and enduring appeal of a musician known as Moondog who lived and worked on the city's streets in the 1950s and 60s.

Born Louis Thomas Hardin in Kansas in May 1916, he played musical instruments from an early age and lost his sight in an accident when he was 16. He went on to teach himself music and composition by ear, as well as music theory through books in braille.

In 1943, Moondog moved to New York where he soon became acquainted with Leonard Bernstein and Arturo Toscanini as well as jazz performers and composers like Charlie Parker and Benny Goodman.

In the late 1940s, he lived as a street musician, composer and poet on the streets of New York City and became known as The Viking of 6th Avenue because of his beard, long hair and attire which included a cloak and a Viking-style horned helmet.

Moondog's music would take inspiration from street sounds such as the New York subway and foghorns. His compositions were a combination of classical, traditional jazz and American vernacular. He became a pioneer with a unique attitude to composition and melody. He also invented instruments including a small triangular shaped harp known as the "oo" and the Trimba, a triangular percussion instrument.

Huey Morgan returns to his home city to learn more about Moondog, his life and his music. He discovers how Moondog went on to influence other musicians, including Phillip Glass, and how his work is continuing to be used and adapted to this day.

Huey is joined in New York by Moondog biographer Robert Scotto and poet and writer Magie Dominic who remembers meeting him in the 1960s. They take Huey to some of the places popular with Moondog, including Carnegie Hall and his regular pitch on 6th Avenue.

Huey hears from the Swedish musician Stefan Lakatos who befriended Moondog when he moved to Europe, from composer John Zorn, saxophonist and composer John Harle and classical pianist and composer Joanna McGregor.

The programme also includes rare recordings of Moondog speaking in the early 1980s.

A Made in Manchester production for BBC Radio 4.

Huey Morgan travels to New York to examine the enduring appeal of blind musician Moondog.

A Made in Manchester production for BBC Radio 4.

A Made in Manchester production for BBC Radio 4.