Monday, August 22, 2005Dr. Robert Moog passed away Sunday at the age of 71, after battling an inoperable brain tumor diagnosed in April.
Suffice it to say that without Robert Moog's inventions, much of the music we take for granted today would never exist. Without the Moog synthesizer and its endless permutations, we would not have, say, Wendy Carlos' Switched on Bach. Or Kraftwerk, Ultravox, Gary Numan, Vangelis, Devo...or Rick Wakeman's grandiloquent noodlings. In fact, we would not have New Wave, techno, dance, trance, house, electronica, ambient, IDM, prog-rock and a host of other musical genres that make up today's sonic landscape. From the BBC:
Born in the New York City suburb of Queens in 1934, Robert Moog - the name rhymes with "vogue" - became fascinated with electronics as a child. Aged just 14, and encouraged by his father, [he] built his first electronic instrument, a theremin. In 1954, Moog - then 19 - and his father, started their own company, RA Moog, selling theremin kits, priced $49.95 by mail order, from their home. Alongside his hobby, Moog was studying hard. From the Bronx High School of Science, he went on to Queens College, before graduating in electrical engineering at Columbia University and earning a doctorate in engineering physics at Cornell.If the Moog never existed, then at least half of my music collection would be whisked away Rapture-style into oblivion, leaving behind some pure classical, jazz, old rock-n-roll, jug band and choral music. Oh, and Blondie's "Rapture" probably would never have been recorded, either.
Although RCA [corporation] had already built a musical synthesiser, it was a vast beast, and never intended for sale. What Moog did, in 1964, was to produce and market a practical instrument, a small keyboard synth which could be used with relative ease. "I didn't know what the hell I was doing," Moog later recalled. "I was doing this thing to have a good time, then all of a sudden someone's saying to me, 'I'll take one of those and two of that.' That's how I got into business."
Hollywood soon expressed an interest, but it was Wendy Carlos' 1968 Grammy-winning album, Switched-On Bach, which brought the Moog synthesiser to spectacular prominence. Before long many musicians and groups, including the Doors, the Grateful Dead, the Rolling Stones and the Beatles, were using Moog synthesisers...many musicians, including Brian Eno, Frank Zappa, The Cure and Fat Boy Slim, sought the Moog sound, keeping it alive, even as analogue synthesisers were wiped-out by their digital cousins.