August 22, 2005

TOO BAD WE CAN'T BURY THEM ALL WITH HIM:

Synthesizer innovator Robert A. Moog dies (NATALIE GOTT, 8/22/05, Associated Press)

Robert A. Moog, whose self-named synthesizers turned electric currents into sound, revolutionizing music in the 1960s and opening the wave that became electronica, has died. He was 71. [...]

The instrument allowed musicians, first in a studio and later on stage, to generate a range of sounds that could mimic nature or seem otherworldly by flipping a switch, twisting a dial, or sliding a knob. Other synthesizers were already on the market in 1964, but Moog's stood out for being small, light and versatile.

The arrival of the synthesizer came as just as the Beatles and other musicians started seeking ways to fuse psychedelic-drug experiences with their art. The Beatles used a Moog synthesizer on their 1969 album, "Abbey Road"; a Moog was used to create an eerie sound on the soundtrack to the 1971 film "A Clockwork Orange."

Keyboardist Walter (later Wendy) Carlos demonstrated the range of Moog's synthesizer by recording the hit album "Switched-On Bach" in 1968 using only the new instrument instead of an orchestra.

Among the other classics using a Moog: the Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again," and Stevie Wonder's urban epic, "Livin' for the City."

"Suddenly, there was a whole group of people in the world looking for a new sound in music, and it picked up very quickly," said Deutsch, the Hofstra University emeritus music professor who helped develop the Moog prototype.

"The Moog came at the right time," he said Monday.

The popularity of the synthesizer and the success of the company named for Moog took off in rock as extended keyboard solos in songs by Manfred Mann, Yes and Pink Floyd became part of the progressive sound of the 1970s.

"The sound defined progressive music as we know it," said Keith Emerson, keyboardist for the rock band Emerson, Lake and Palmer.

Along with rock, synthesizers developed since Moog's breakthrough helped inspire elements of 1970s funk, hip-hop, and techno.


Hardly his fault, but no one did more to destroy popular music.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 22, 2005 12:00 AM
Comments

I don't think you can blame them for rap.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at August 22, 2005 12:50 PM

I'd point more towards the consortium that created the synthetic drum, which was the anchor for the 1970s disco craze. At least the moog demanded the operator create some sort of melody -- the unchanging synthetic drum required far less talent, and the thumpa-thumpa beat infects just about every Top 40 song to this day (though one of it's creators, Raymond Scott, at least came up with some great music that went into Warner Bros. cartoons in the 1940s as a mitgating circumstance).

Posted by: John at August 22, 2005 3:28 PM

I've got a buddy who's had, at one point or another, micro-, mini-, and memory-moog's. They're a lot of fun to play with (lots of neat old-timey analog dials and such). But I always felt more like a technician than a musician when I was fooling with them.

Then you've got the machines like the early Arp sythesizers with different effects and processing modules you had to patch together with cords like an old-timey phone operator.

My, I like blowing on my saxophone.

Posted by: Twn at August 22, 2005 4:44 PM
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