Ghost Train Orchestra and Kronos Quartet Team Up on ‘Songs and Symphoniques: The Music of Moondog’

Before landing on the streets, Moondog befriended such notable New York classical and jazz figures as Leonard Bernstein, Arturo Toscanini, Charlie Parker, and Benny Goodman

By Greg Cahill | From the March-April 2024 issue of Strings Magazine

The most stirring new chamber works I heard in the past year—the elegiac “Speak of Heaven” and the sublime “All Is Loneliness,” featuring singer and violinist Joan As Police Woman—were penned by a blind, bearded, helmeted, unhoused man who wandered the streets of Manhattan clad as a Viking. The American composer Moondog, born Louis Thomas Hardin (1916–99), lost his sight in a childhood accident, but learned braille and composed brilliant classical, jazz, and Latin-tinged works that influenced such minimalist composers as Philip Glass and Steve Reich. 


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Songs and Symphoniques: The Music of Moondog, Ghost Train Orchestra, Kronos Quartet (Cantaloupe)

Before landing on the streets, only to be rediscovered late in life (he is the subject of the biography and film documentary The Viking of Sixth Avenue), Moondog befriended such notable New York classical and jazz figures as Leonard Bernstein, Arturo Toscanini, Charlie Parker, and Benny Goodman. He also recorded several albums on the Prestige jazz label. Today, Moondog is the patron saint of outsider music. 

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Kronos Quartet. Photo: Jay Blakesberg

Musician, composer, arranger, and producer Brian Carpenter, the leader of the Ghost Train Orchestra, a Boston-based chamber ensemble, has gathered a talent-rich pool that includes Kronos Quartet and such stellar vocalists as Rufus Wainwright (“Be a Hobo”), Jarvis Cocker (“I’m This, I’m That”), Petra Haden (“Down Is Up”), Aoife O’Donovan (“Behold”), and Marissa Nadler (“High on a Rocky Ledge”), among others. The result is a fascinating adventure through Moondog’s artsy, esoteric, eclectic, life-affirming world. This CD belongs in the library of every serious lover of contemporary chamber music.