Louis Hardin, aka Moondog, Composer

If you are a bricklayer you have rules which you must follow about the laying of bricks or the building will fall down... You have to compose according to the laws of nature, and if you don't, you pay the penalties of doing it wrong... and it will sound bad.


I was attracted by an Indian-sounding pen name. But it was really referring to my dog that I used to have in Missouri who used to howl at the moon a lot. I thought of him when I put the words together. But I learned later that the Inuit indians have a 'Sundog' (a rainbow over the sun) and a 'Moondog' (a rainbow over the moon). So it wasn't as original as I thought!


The new Premise's playin' / an' Moondog's beatin' his drum an' sayin his lines / Lenny Bruce's talkin' / an' Lord Buckley's memory still movin...

Bob Dylan, Blowin' In The Wind, Hootenanny Magazine, December 1963

Internet Resources

Ten thousand years ago when Agriculture ushered in the Age of Man, / ten thousand years would spin the span before the Cosmic Calendar began / Two thousand years ago a calendar was abrogated. In the face / of opposite there appeared another calendar to take its place.. To abrogate the Calendar of Caesar was a blessing in disguise. It gave the Common Calendar the opening to do the worldly wise.
Louis T. Hardin... was a curiosity even in the modern classical-cum-jazz world he lived on the fringes of. He was even strange as compared to most New York street denizens. His legacy is this: he represented a moment when music appreciation was so inclusive, that it could even veer a bit to the extreme avant-garde and still maintain a veneer of rock's mysticism and rebellion. That doesn't exist today, no matter how much of a mindfucker you tell me a specific electronica DJ is. The height of Moondog's popularity, so my sketchy research tells me, was in the heady days of the late sixties, when ten-year-old records by a blind man who dressed like a Viking Wizard were brought out at gatherings. This occurred, I'm guessing, because there truly was no music packaged before or since so wonderfully shrouded in the perfect blend of mystery, myth, oddity, and potential-genius.
Jordan Hoffman
Includes New York Times obituary; excerpt from Music That Means Something; All Music Guide entry.
Fuller Up
He was a New York City street musician and former beat poet who was blinded as a young adult. From the late 1940s until 1974, he was a permanent fixture on 54th Street and 6th Avenue in Manhattan. He was known not only for his music and poetry, but also for the distinctive Viking garb that he wore, including a horned helmet. In a search for new sounds, he also invented several musical instruments, such as the "Oo", a small triangular shaped harp, and the "Trimba", a triangular percussion instrument invented in the late 40s. The Original Trimba today is still played by Stefan Lakatos, swedish percussionist, close friend and pupil of Moondog, who also taught him, how to build this unique instrument.
Louis Hardin was born in Marysville, Kansas, May 26, 1916. His father was an Episcopal minister. At the age of sixteen he was blinded when a blasting cap went off in his hands. In 1933, he attended the Missouri School for the Blind at St. Louis and it was around this time that he decided he wanted to be a composer. He finished his schooling at the Iowa School for the Blind where he got his first formal training in music and heard his first classical music. He left the Iowa School in 1936 and lived in and around Batesville, Arkansas until 1942 when thanks to Virginia Sledge he won a scholarship to study in Memphis. His patron was I. L. Meyers. In the autumn of 1943 he went to New York and met Artur Rodzinski who let him attend the rehearsals of the Philharmonic. There he met Leonard Bernstein who was the assistant conductor. Artur later introduced Louis to Toscanini.
Some artists are just so unique that it's hard to pin them down or make some kind of comparison to them. Louis Hardin (aka Moondog) is just this kind of artist. He's been active for over a half a century with everyone from symphony orchestras to Janis Joplin and Julie Andrews (yes, the actress!) performing his work. His work includes orchestra and small combo compositions, poetry, theology (as you'll see below) and theory- his latest release is the wonderful Sax Pax For A Sax (Atlantic). As he notes, because he works with more tonal (or traditional or melodic, if you want) structures for his work, he's some of an outcast and an anomaly. The closest analogy might be Cecil Taylor- a classical-minded composer who's drawn to jazz (or vice versa). No, that still doesn't explain away someone as complex as Moondog so maybe it's best to read on and let him explain for himself.
Jason Gross
Born Louis Thomas Hardin in1916, Moondog has always stood aside from the main currents of music-making. Fascinated by the canon form and resolutely tonal, his music skirts ground between the classical and jazz worlds, appearing increasingly out of step with both.
Kenneth Ansell
Tom's Moondog website.
Stefan Lakatos was a close friend of Moondog and is the inheritor of the unique Moondog percussion instrument known as the Trimbas. He has built trimbas, dragon's teeth and other percussion instruments according to the Moondog tradition.
Stefan Lakatos
All the information on this site is a compilation of everything I have found on the Web, plus some written material. I never expected the site to attract the attention it has. I know I've only had about 600 visits but that I think is amazing for basically a very obscure artist. I was very pleased to receive E-mails from people giving me information, this updated site is the result of those people who I thank very much.

Opinions expressed by the authors of pages to which this site links do not necessarily reflect this site developer's opinions. In other words: Sublime or ridiculous? You decide!
Copyright © 2004-2008, Kathleen Seidel. All rights reserved.
This page was last updated on 5 November 2008, 3:48 pm
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