1000 Couplets by Moondog

July 6 — September 1, 2019

The Kunstverein dedicates this cabinet exhibition to the blind American composer and great nomad Louis Hardin aka. Moondog (1916 - 1999), an icon of counterculture and a great reference for many contemporary composers, musicians and music lovers worldwide. Moondog became famous after his musical education in New York in the late 1940s, when he regularly performed as a street musician on the corner of 6th Avenue and 54th Street, selling his poems, compositions and various other printed matter with his extraordinary look of specially sewn robes, Viking helmet, spear and leather boots tied around his feet and shackles. In New York he spent some time with Arthur Rodzinski (Philharmonic Orchestra) and quickly joined the beat generation of artists, read poems with Allen Ginsberg, Tiny Tim, Meggie Dominic and met jazz greats like Benny Goodman or Charlie Parker, to whom he dedicated his famous piece "Bird's Lament" after his early death. Fellow composers Philip Glass and Steve Reich considered Moondog the founder of minimal music. After being invited by Hessischer Rundfunk to a concert together with Kraftwerk in Frankfurt in 1974, he decided to stay in Germany, first living in Hamburg, later in Recklinghausen and Oer-Erkenschwick.

His compositions, poems, plays, theoretical and philosophical treatises were first written in Braille and then partly translated into writing. He owed his independence in creative work to an extremely systematic approach to everyday life, as well as the continuous support of various people in his environment, in the USA and later also in Germany.

I'm just not in the running as I stand beside the track,on which the rat-race never ends, but ever circles back.

The exhibition at the Kunstverein shows Moondog’s great poetic work, the barely widespread "1000 Couplets", which is characterized by wordplay, rhythm, the enjoyment of the sound of language but also by artistic austerity, his unbound nomadism and great loneliness. Two field recordings from Hamburg and the piece "Moondog's Monologue", in which he recites his poems to drummed rhythms, can be heard at three listening stations. We also show a selection of Braille notations in the original, which due to a lack of paper Moondog often imprinted in his partner's magazines. In this way, he involuntarily created visual encounters of his notation with the magazine texts and images and thus interesting contemporary documents.

A new wallpainting was created for this exhibition by Hamburg-based artist Cordula Ditz (*1972 in Hamburg) whose visual engagement with writing, language and the subconscious expands the documentary character of the exhibtion. The artist takes up some couplets, puts them in relation and opens them to diverse reading possibilities.

Moondog's Couplets can also be heard as an original recording from his hut in Candor, recorded at the beginning of the 1970s, in the shelter on tracks 1&2 of Harburg railway station.

This year’s edition of Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival will dedicate a series of concerts to the composer throughout Hamburg, takinng place at Thalia-Theater and Uebel & Gefährlich among others. The last concert of this series will take place at Kunstverein Harburger Bahnhof, with musician Stefan Lakatos (Trimba), ClariNoir (clarinets), Omer Iran (oboe) and Alexander Rauch (bassoon).