Robert A. Moog, Ph.D. passed away yesterday. He invented the first practical keyboard-controlled electronic music synthesizer in the 1960s.
For a few months in 1979, I got to work with one of the early Moog models, which was installed at the Bregman Electronic Music Studio at Dartmouth College. If I recall correctly, I was told that the serial number on the synthesizer in the lab there was 5. It was a relatively small synthesizer, though huge in terms of weight and volume even by 1979 standards. Minimoogs were widely available by then -- and were all the rage with the "progressive rock" bands of the era, and we also had one of the earliest digital synthesizers in the same lab taking up much less space.
The earlier Moogs were modular synthesizers. They were much more flexible than the Minimoogs, but much harder to configure on-the-fly for different sounds. The one I worked with had just a few of each of the Moog components: voltage controlled oscillators, voltage controlled amplifiers, voltage controlled filters, envelope generators and mixers. A sound was constructed by wiring modules together with patch cords (which is why keyboard players today often refer to a constructed sound as a "patch", even though most have probably never touched an actual patch cord). Trigger voltages from a keyboard, a ribbon, or from a small bank of sequencer modules provided the input into a chain of modules. Output went to an amplifier and speakers, or to tape. Getting something like a "classic Moog sound" was fairly easy, but creating an original sound that someone might actually like to hear required either a lot of knowledge, or a lot of trial and error -- preferably with nobody within earshot. Despite my severe lack of actuaI keyboard skills, I had a lot of fun with it. I'm not sure if I can say the same for the professor who had to actually listen to the composition I did for the electronic music class I was taking, though :-)
New York Times obituaury here
1. Neil Gower08/23/2005 08:59:25 AM
A Sad Loss.
I had a MiniMoog for a few years and loved it to bits until it died big style. now I have all digital synths, but there is still something special about analogue synths...
If Robert Moog had not created the first really affordable, user synths then I would not be hooked on electronic music, or progressive rock LOL