Let’s Celebrate Bob Moog’s Birthday Today: Be Creative!

Robert Moog , engineer and pioneer of electronic music synthesis, was born 86 years ago on this date.

The skeptical cardiologist first revealed his love of electronic music and Bob’s Moog synthesizers in a post about the annual Moogfest music festival (sadly not held this year due to Covid-19.)

In college I became obsessed with Moog synthesizers and this obsession has only increased with age.  I was inspired by Wendy Carlos’ Switched on Bach which features her renditions of Bach pieces performed on an early modular Moog synthesizer. The glory of Bach transmuted by otherworldly Moog voices was mesmerizing.

I and my college roommate,  APOD-to-be Jerry Bonnell , purchased components from PAIA electronics, and with the assistance of electrical engineer and pi-plate-to-be Jerry Wasinger  built our  own modular synthesizer.  After my post on the delights of Asheville and the Moog Factory Museum piece was published several readers contacted me and have turned me on to other synthesizer performance pioneers including Gershon Kingsley (who has subsequently died-see obituary at end of post.)

Around the time of the 20014 Moogfest I missed due to THE FLU I acquired a small Sub Phatty Moog.

I used it in a song I created based on Phillip K. Dick’s novel Radio Free Albemuth  as the sound of the superintelligent, extraterrestrial, but less than omnipotent being (or network) named VALIS:

Valis/Sub Phatty goes wild delivering its rebellious message for the last 50 seconds and then fizzzles out.

Subsequently, I’ve acquired a duophonic (Bob Moog Tribute Edition!) Sub 37 Moog. The built-in arpeggiator/sequencer on the Sub 37 allows for some really creative rhythmic and patterned music creation. You gotta love all those flashing lights and delightful knobs just begging to be twirled!

An Email from the folks at Moog Music suggests

More Ways to Celebrate Bob

  1. Create your own music with the free Minimoog Model D iOS app.
  2. Share a memory or musical creation online using #CelebrateBob.
  3. Try your hand at this interactive Google Doodle, originally shared by Google on Bob’s birthday in 2012.
  4. Watch Hans Fjellestad’s Moog documentary.
  5. Listen to this episode of The Music History Project’s podcast.
  6. Learn more about electronic music pioneers and Moog Music’s history.
  7. Encourage creativity all around you!

So here’s to my hero, Bob Moog!

Paraphonically Yours,

-ACP

N.B. Bonnell is one-half of the astronomy picture of the day and today’s picture is cool

Ghost Fungus to Magellanic Cloud
Image Credit & Copyright: Gill Fry

N.B.2 From the NYTimes obituary:

Gershon Kingsley, a composer who brought electronic sounds into popular music and wrote the enduring instrumental hit “Pop Corn,” died on Dec. 10 at his home in Manhattan. He was 97. His daughter Alisse Kingsley announced the death. Mr. Kingsley was an early convert to the Moog synthesizer in the 1960s. He used it to create music for commercials and to orchestrate perky melodies — most notably “Pop Corn,” an instrumental originally released on Mr. Kingsley’s 1969 album “Music to Moog By.” It became a best seller and was remade (usually renamed “Popcorn”) in hundreds of versions: by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, Aphex Twin and the Muppets, among others. A 1972 version of “Popcorn” by Hot Butter made the song an international hit, and a 2005 remake for the animated character Crazy Frog became a major hit in Europe.

Source: Gershon Kingsley, Master of Electronic Sounds, Dies at 97 – The New York Times

 

12 thoughts on “Let’s Celebrate Bob Moog’s Birthday Today: Be Creative!”

  1. My mother went to high school with Robert Moog. She died a few years ago, so I can’t relay more than that. She did talk about him occasionally, but I cannot remember anything about what she said.

    1. Tis I! My voice is the Achilles heel of my musical talent. I used to spend time with programs like Melodyne or Autotune but these days I’m lucky to get the vocals down on a track.

      1. This fascinating comment from Wayne came by email to me.
        When I saw Radio Shack selling tiny Moogs back in 1979, I knew prog rock had finally died… Interesting story on how ELP’s Lucky Man came about – all one take … Lake states that it was a song he’d written as a youth and when they initially tracked it, it wasn’t so great Emerson left to go to the pub with “good luck with that..” kinda thing.

        After a few overdubs it’d started sounding pretty cool.

        When Emerson got back there was only one track left.

        So he said something like, “Well, I guess I better put something down on it…: and mentioned the brand new Moog that was sitting in the studio.

        So he goes in and asks Eddie Offord and Greg to play it back so he could start messing around with his part. So Offord and Lake had the monitor DIM on (partially mutes the control room speakers) and were talking, As per their standard procedure they always hit record.

        So as they’re talking it gets to the end … They hit stop and look at each other and mention, “Did that sound pretty good?”

        So they listen to the playback and Emerson mentions, “Alright … let me do it for real.” Lakes comes back on the talkback and says, “Keith you might want to come in here and take a listen…” Had to go force him to go back in to the control room to hear it…

        So only having one track left – and this last track had Keith just futzing with this new creation from Bob Moog, – they convinced Keith to leave it be.

        And that’s what you hear at the end of Lucky Man

        You can hear Greg Lake tell the story in his own words here :

        https://youtu.be/MggmyX9Yfmg?t=794
        Should start at about 13:25 into the vid

        I also always hit record – learned that long ago…

        Also note that Quincy Jones mentions that Ironsides was one of the first use of a Moog on a TV show theme…

        Interesting Moog story from Quincy here in the LA Times:
        https://www.latimes.com/entertainment/music/la-et-ms-quincy-jones-bowl-20170905-story.html:

        “Jones was an early adopter of synths, and wrote his “Ironside” theme (which appeared on “Smackwater Jack”) for the nascent Moog.

        “Robert Moog said to me, ‘Quincy, why don’t the brothers use my instrument?’” he recalled. “I said, “’Cause, man, number one: we sculpt an electronic signal into a sine wave that’s smooth, or a sawtooth, which is rough. The problem with it, though, is it doesn’t bend. And if it doesn’t bend, it can’t get funky. And if it can’t get funky, brother, you don’t touch it.’ So he came up with a pitch-bender and a portamento on it … and I got it, real quick.” ”

        Maybe where the portamento came from?

        And to really tie these together, as to Lakes “always hit record” thing, there’s a great quote from Quincy in Beatles producer George Martin’s book :

        “So you’re always waiting for those special moments, trying to produce chemistry between people in
        whatever situation is right for them. Some artists need to be uptight to really perform, with their
        adrenaline at it’s peak; others need to be relaxed, yet in the end there’s no guarantee that 28 or 29 takes
        will necessarily produce that magic.

        In fact, the entire entertainment industry is about trying to “bottle lightning”. There’s also a saying we have
        in the studio that goes: you have to leave space, after you’ve done your homework, to let the Lord walk
        through the room.”

        ~~~ Quincy Jones, “Making Music” – edited by George Martin ISBN 0 330 26945 3


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  2. Great article. I too was bitten by the electronic music bug while at Dartmouth in the 70s. Spent way too much time in the studio under the tutelage of Jon Appleton. Got to meet John Cage too when he came to visit. Happy times.

  3. If you’d like to add to your instrument collection, Behringer has been bringing out near-copies of Moog’s old designs — at Chinese-factory prices. I understand the attraction of vintage gear, but the reviews have been generally positive. Have fun!

  4. Like millions of others throughout the world, I clearly recall my initial delight with “Switched on Bach,” which featured a dozen very familiar Johann Sebastian Bach pieces performed by Carlos and Benjamin Folkman. I also recall being so puzzled when I learned that Moog rhymed with “vogue,” but I dutifully used that pronunciation, even when everyone else was still saying “mooo-g”! 😉

    It’s reassuring to learn I’m not the only person who remembers listening to those intriguing sounds of most familiar (primarily) keyboard pieces. I just posted on FB a bit about this first of several Carlos albums, which was credited with popularizing Moog Synthesizer recordings to “Top 40” status around the world…even though they were categorized as “classical music.”

    SOB hit #10 on the Billboard 200 chart and topped the Billboard Classical Albums chart from 1969 to 1972. In 1970, it won Grammy Awards for Best Classical Album, Best Classical Performance – Instrumental Soloist or Soloists, and Best Engineered Classical. By June 1974, it had sold over one million copies, and in 1986 it became only the second classical album to be certified platinum. Several follow-up albums followed, but none had the same impact as this pioneer recording.

    Thanks for reminding me of such fond memories.

  5. In fact, one of my running songs today was Two Part Inv B-flt Mj: Switched On Bach #4. My 50 years ago college nights were accompanied by the original Switched on Bach, The Well Tempered Synthesizer, and Everything You Always Wanted to Hear on the Moog* (*but were afraid to ask for) (Shepard and Kazdin), served with Pop Corn and Popcorn.

    Thank you for recognizing and reminding of Carlos’ genius.

    P.S. Remembering and celebrating our musical influencers, 2020 is 20 years since prostate cancer took Virgil Fox. Be sure to give “Heavy Organ” a spin this year.

    1. Correction – 2020 is 40 years since Virgil Fox passing.

      If you are into organ music and musician histories, I highly recommend “Virgil Fox (The Dish)”, Richard Torrance. (Available through interlibrary loan from Florida Atlantic University.)

  6. Don’t forget Dick Hyman.

    https://moogfoundation.org/moog-a-history-in-recordings-dick-hyman-master-stylist-of-the-moog-modular/

    One of his tracks, The Minotaur, later inspired Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s extended track of the same name.

    https://www.classicrockhistory.com/how-the-top-40-hit-the-minotaur-fueled-the-progressive-rock-era/

    I had front row seats for an ELP concert in the 70s when I did my own darkroom photography. Back then, cameras (and tripods even) were allowed in concerts. I wish I had those photos in digits.

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