Tapping the rhythms: Moondog

I find the greatest freedom in the stricture of a form
that paradoxes abnormality within a norm.

I would bow down before just one–
one who bows before none.
I should know who that one might be who could do that to me
I am that one
and I bow down before me


Reflections on art inspired by the life, music and poetry of Moondog (Louis T. Hardin), who, were he with us today, would celebrate his 100th birthday this year.

The year’s end is no end, as the year has no beginning, for the flows of time as measured in the assembly and disassembly of spatial realities is only arbitrarily clocked and calendared by the desire to master events.  Beneath the channeling of movement, the torrents persist, sweeping all temporary stases before them, either slowly or rapidly.

Order in the flows of movement is mother and child of power.  Yet whereas nature governs through equilibria, adding and eliminating in the cycle of events, human government imposes, endeavours to instill, discipline, by en-framing and chaining to utilities of control the multiple and many-layered currents of movement .  We cannot but do this in some sense, but the violence that can follow knows no limits, summarised in the horrors of oppression, exploitation, the insufferable vanity of authority and the idiocy of domestication, and the general appropriation-destruction of everything, both human and beyond, that falls within our grasp.  Indeed, power, hierarchical power, as the rule over others determined by those who hold power, cannot but entail such violence, as history is witness to.  If human fate were nothing else, better to leave this world as quickly and as foolishly as one entered it.

Childhood, fortunately, teaches us otherwise, that is, that it is possible to give form, almost any form to nature, temporarily, playfully, sacrilegiously.  If all art is a matter of giving form to nature, even useful form, the child’s art keeps any serious utility at bay; it profanes nature in the unrestrained joy and pain of sensing it, handling it, abandoning and losing itself to it.  For Pablo Picasso, “children are artists.”  The problem is how to remain so, once grown up.  And Paul Klee once wrote that children possess artistic ability, and that it is from them that we should learn.  “The more helpless they are, the more instructive are the examples they furnish us; and they must be preserved free of corruption from an early age.”

In washing the dust of daily life away from our souls, to again cite Picasso, art allows us to see more than what is before us.  It pulls us away from the taken for granted; not of course, without fear and hesitation.  Yet as the child’s curiosity and pleasure carries it beyond unease, so to the adult-artist does the same.  And without it, what would our condition be?  Gilles Deleuze spoke of art and philosophy as forms of resistance to stupidity; one can only imagine the viciousness, our viciousness, in their absence.

If the “art of mastering life is the prerequisite for all further forms of expression, whether they are paintings, sculptures, tragedies, or musical compositions” (Paul Klee), then all gives voice to an ethics, an ethics that is itself life as art, life as self-creation without sacred grounding or justifying principles.  As the expression of such life, art is then that which in turn sustains life as art, and it is therefore as art that we live anarchically.

Moondog was blind composer, musician, artisan of words and musical instruments, a wanderer, often having the streets of New York City as his only home.  If his art was sustained by so much, it is perhaps because he passed through this world with the wonderous innocence of a child.

A skeleton’s in your closet and a mirror’s in there too.
You’re looking in the mirror and the skeleton’s none but you.

In retrospect he sees a pond, and on that pond he sees two
fleets of warring centipedes whose decks are lined with fleas.

The ant inherited the earth because he was so meek.
The will was signed, “The Animal” who turned the other cheek.

She bought a cover to cover the seat; but the cover was so nice,
she bought a cover to cover the cover; and now it’s covered twice.

“Embrace me, slave,” the Princess sighed; and as he did, she screamed.
The guards rushed in and cut him down, as twenty sabers gleamed.

You couldn’t tell me more than when you looked into my eyes.
Now, you are there and i am here; and hope within me dies.

A glance, a smile, a chance hallo and then – a fond embrace.
The years roll back before my eyes to scenes I can´t erase.

Within a moment’s time the final grain of sand will drop.
Upend your hour-glass, old man, or the universe will stop.

An armored knight fell off a ship and sank into the blue.
He looked a lobster in the eye and said, “you’re armored, to?”

Carnivores who lived on Herbivores who lived on plants,
were all consumed by Omnivores who walked around in pants.

A snow-flake landed on my hand and said, as if in fear,
“I must be on my way, before I turn into a tear.”

He who didn´t know who didn´t know he didnt know,
became the he who didn´t know who knew he didn´t know,
and he became the he who knew who didn´t know he knew,
who finally became the he who knew who knew he knew.

My credo may be this, that ere my dirth of days is passed,
I´ll strive to live each one as if it were my first and last.

… and so much more.  For more about Moondog, see the site Moondog’s Corner.

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