Moogfest: Remembering Robert Moog

Moogfest, a celebration of music made with the unique and wonderful Moog synthesizer, just wrapped in Asheville, NC, the place inventor Bob Moog called home for the last 30 years of his life.

moogfest

The New York Times‘ lead music critic Jon Pareles has written an excellent account of the three-day festival, which you can read here, but I thought fans of Moog music might enjoy the liner notes written in 1999 by Bob for the first (and only) disinformation CD, Best Of Moog: Electronic Pop Hits From The 60’s & 70’s:

We began making electronic music instruments in 1964 and began calling them “synthesizers” in 1967. Back then, most of our customers were experimental composers in universities and conservatories. Their music was “at the fringe”, to say the least. Meanwhile, out in the mainstream of our musical culture, record producers and performing musicians tended to think of the Moog Synthesizer as an instrument that could make funny sounds, but you couldn’t make “real music” with it.

best of moogBut not all musicians were so shortsighted. Moog’s second synthesizer customer ever was Eric Siday, a New York composer who specialized in radio and television commercials. Siday’s “five-second compositions”, which he performed on his Moog Synthesizer, were heard by millions of listeners and viewers across the land. During the same period, in midtown Manhattan, Jean-Jacques Perrey and Gershon Kingsley were working out the moves to produce music directly on multi-track tape, using conventionally recorded sounds along with their Moog Synthesizer. And, just a few blocks away, Dick Hyman was applying his formidable keyboard skills to his brand new Moog synth. Hyman’s record “MOOG”, and Perrey/Kingsley’s record “The In Sound from Way Out” were two of the earliest albums that demonstrated that, yes, you could indeed make “real music” with a Moog Synthesizer.

Meanwhile, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones were enjoying enormous popularity, the Grateful Dead were rising fast, and listeners everywhere were developing a taste for new sounds. By the end of 1968, Columbia Records had introduced a whole series of experimental and electronic music. They called the series “M.O.O.T.”, for “Music Of Our Time.” Included in that series was Switched-on Bach, a recording of the music of J. S. Bach, realized by W. Carlos entirely on the Moog Synthesizer. Switched-on Bach went on to become one of the largest-selling classical albums of all time.

For us, 1969 was the year of “The Moog Record”. The popularity of Switched-on Bach, plus other synthesizer records that had been released, captured the attention of the mainstream record producers. We received dozens of orders for large synthesizers. At one point, we had a nine-month order backlog. The “Moog Records” began to hit the street: Moog Groove; Moog Plays the Beatles; Moog Power; Country Moog; and on and on. Our small factory was *very* busy. We were invited to stage a synthesizer concert in the garden of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, which was attended by some four thousand listeners. We were commissioned to build four programmable performance synthesizers for Gershon Kingsley’s First Moog Quartet. And of course, our company made it onto the pages of several national news magazines.

Most of the cuts on this CD come from the short but exciting period from 1968 to 1970. They’re from selected “Moog Records” of the late sixties. They’re part of the white-hot musical-cultural revolution that characterized the period. At the time they were released, they were strikingly novel. Today, we’re accustomed to hearing synthesizers, so the cuts sometimes tend to sound, well, quaint. But they’re all authentic late ’60’s, pure and simple. I hope you enjoy them.

— Bob Moog

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