Ghost Train Orchestra and Kronos Quartet have arranged a Moondog tribute album, Songs And Symphoniques: The Music Of Moondog, which will be released on September 29. “The first Moondog record I heard was the 1969 orchestra record simply titled Moondog,” Ghost Train Orchestra’s Brian Carpenter said in a statement. “Its cover featured a very striking image of a man with a long white beard and ornate headdress. From the very first track I was immediately transported to another world — a world of wonder and whimsy, darkness and beauty.”
For decades Moondog lived and worked on the streets of New York City, yet in the decades since he passed, no group in New York (or even worldwide) has seriously tackled the wide breadth of his music. I wanted to hear what the talented arrangers in Ghost Train Orchestra could do with his music and experience it live in the present day. Our collaboration with the legendary Kronos Quartet and this diverse cast of some of my favorite singers was an incredible thrill. Kronos Quartet’s commitment to new music over the course of five decades has and continues to be a huge inspiration to all of us. We hope you enjoy these reimaginings of the wonderful world of Moondog as much as we do.
What was originally conceived of as a collaboration between the two groups grew to contain a lot of other special guests, including Marissa Nadler, Rufus Wainwright, Jarvis Cocker, Joan As Police Woman, Petra Haden, Karen Mantler, Sam Amidon, and Aoife O’Donovan. Today, we’re getting Nadler’s contribution to the album, her take on Moondog’s “High On A Rocky Ledge.”
“The mysterious, mythlike lyrics in ‘High On A Rocky Ledge’ are almost divinatory, where grand themes are shrouded behind minimalistic imagery and melded with the ‘loveliest’ earworm of a melody,” she said, continuing:
There’s a loneliness in the repeated trips to see the edelweiss, and a sadness in my perceived loneliness of the character’s countless trips that made me drawn to the song. This inanimate object, the lone lace-like flower, documents the passing of time, but also a distinct love for the purity of nature. T. Rex referenced Moondog in the song “Rabbit Fighter,” with the line “Moondog’s just a prophet to the end…” and that’s perhaps how this song cut deep for me. The beautiful playing of the Kronos Quartet and Ghost Train Orchestra give this rendition a sprawling space much like the mountain ranges and cliffs I imagine this song taking place in. Jenni Hensler, a filmmaker who I’ve worked with several times before, further interpreted her own meaning into the song with beautiful imagery, cosmic contemplation, and magically musical editing. (we had a blast searching for these locations across the Northeast, essentially becoming the flower and the searcher).
Watch and listen below.
02 “Be A Hobo” (Feat. Rufus Wainwright)
03 “High On A Rocky Ledge” (Feat. Marissa Nadler)
05 “Why Spend A Dark Night With You” (Feat. Joan As Police Woman)
06 “Enough About Human Rights” (Feat. Karen Mantler)
07 “I’m This, I’m That” (Feat. Jarvis Cocker)
08 “Speak Of Heaven”
09 “The Viking Of 6th Avenue”
10 “Down Is Up” (Feat. Petra Haden)
11 “Coffee Beans” (Feat. Karen Mantler)
12 “Behold” (Feat. Sam Amidon & Aoife O’Donovan)
13 “Choo Choo Lullaby” (Feat. Brian Carpenter)
14 “Fog On The Hudson”
15 “See The Mighty Tree” (Feat. Petra Haden)
17 “All Is Loneliness” (Feat Joan Wasser)
Songs And Symphoniques: The Music Of Moondog is out 9/29 via Cantaloupe Music. Pre-order it here.