Robert Moog would have turned 83 on Tuesday. On cue, the accolades from music journalists, music historians, and in general busy bodies who like to talk about ‘importance’ and influence flooded through and with similar spirit I’m going to join in on the fun! Moog’s birthday lead me to throw an idea around the office about creating a mini series that would focus on the slightly more obscure influencers of the club scene. And who better to begin with than Dr. Robert Moog? Those producer types might want to skip ahead to the clubbing guide!
Very few people can claim to have a legacy on electronic music the likes of which Bob Moog can. Born in New York City, Moog attended the Bronx School of Science, and the Columbia University School of Engineering where, shortly after, and at the tender age of 19 would create his first company: RA Moog Co. With his father, Robert built an adaptation of Lev Termen’s Etherphone called the ‘Theremin’. Originally created in the 1920s, it’s one of the earliest examples of an electronic instrument. The Etherphone is a simple pitch bender that uses the musician’s body as an oscillator to create sound. To our knowledge it’s the only instrument you can play without physical contact. It is played without physical contact. RA Moog Co. went on to sell roughly 1,000 Theremins. In the early 1960s Moog’s Theremin kits sold for 50 USD a piece.
A meeting, and budding friendship, with classical composer Herb Deutsch resulted in Moog’s first modular synthesiser. It was one of two first modular synth ever created alongside Buchala in 1963. He was 29 years old and still in college. In 1967 Moog renamed his company RA Moog Inc. (the name it holds today) and released the Moog Modular Synths i-iii. This innovation led Moog to the forefront of electronic musicianship and thus began appearing on records. Mort Garsan’s The Zodiac Cosmic Sounds, Hal Blaine’s Psychedelic Percussion, and The Doors’ Strange Days all showcased the versatility of his modular synthesizers. Radical experimental music gave way to more structured productions and the Moog’s instrumentation allowed for both backing harmonies and lead melody. Kraftwerk were early enthusiasts of his of his sound (perhaps most audible on Autobahn) in terms of electronic and dance music, and Donna Summer introduced the Moog into the ears of more widely appealing dance halls and discotheques. The Moog has lasted decades and its sound print stretches from M83 to The Beatles; from Pink Floyd to Parliament; and from Aphex Twin to Prince.
Today the Minimoog, controls club floors as infectiously as it did when it was released in 1971 *prototypes were available by 1969. New Order used it extensively in the recording session for Blue Monday, alongside Gary Newman, and Sun Ra. In 2017, and in keeping with the nature of their founder, Moog continue to pioneer leading technology and sounds through both (extremely limited) modulars, semi-modulars, and digital apps. They continue to sell Theremins and they even stage a yearly music and arts festival ‘Moogfest’. A synthesizer with a festival dedicated to it. Need anyone say more? Oh! It was also made a doodle on Google’s home page to celebrate Robert Moogs 78th birthday. Ah, the sweet sound of history…
Four Releases to track Moog’s influence
Love In (December) – Hal Blaine (1967)
Syro – Aphex Twin (2014)
I Feel Love – Donna Summer (1977)
Autobahn – Kraftwerk (1974)