Moondog was a beatmaker. The blind, street-dwelling composer, born Louis Hardin, wrote pieces simple enough to play by himself on the sidewalk yet complex enough to be performed by full orchestras. And at the heart of every Moondog song was an inventive beat, in a self-made style he called “snaketime” due to its slithery danceability. You can hear how essential rhythm was to him in On The Streets of New York, a collection of mostly percussive pieces played with his own invented instruments–including the “Oo” and the “Utsu”–on the pavement and rooftops of New York City.
The majority of these recordings were made by Tony Schwartz, an audio documentarian who recognized Moondog’s genius early on and forged—according to biographer Robert Scotto—“[Moondog’s] most important professional relationship with anyone other than his wife.” The excellent EP that Schwartz recorded in 1953, also called On The Streets Of New York, is included in full on this Mississippi reissue, but just as exciting is the newly-found material on side two, taken from Schwartz’s Library of Congress archives. Throughout these nine short tracks, Moondog creates looping beats, often humming and howling over top of them. The ecstatic discovery in these homemade chants and rhythms is both intimately personal and spiritually universal.
On The Streets Of New York isn’t all Moondog alone. It also includes an unreleased take of his woodwind-filled composition “Why Spend the Dark Night With You?,” as well as a stirring version of “Nocturne Suite,” originally used in a dance piece by Donald McKayle and performed here with members of the Royal Philharmonic. But it’s the work of Moondog by himself, digging into his brain for new beats, that sparks the most flames on this fantastic archival collection.