You may have seen that Robert Moog died last week. Not many electrical engineers make headlines when they die. Moog, as most people know, was the inventor of the Moog synthesizer. I knew about the device, of course, and have heard pieces that used it. What I didn't know was how widely used it really was and how important it was - and is - to the music we listen to.
I just downloaded an album from the Moog movie soundtrack and was astonished to know the degree to which it was used by The Beatles, the Beach Boys, Devo, Emerson Lake and Palmer, They Might be Giants, Yes, Stereolab, and many others.
Moog (soundtrack from the Motion Picture)
Moog's fascination with electronically synthesized music began at the age of 15, when he built a theremin from a magazine project. A theremin makes eerie sounds that vary in pitch as the user's hands moved near a couple of plates.
He built several more and developed a kit which he sold for $49.95. It was very successful and financed his electrical engineering degrees.
In 1964, Moog developed a revolutionary electronic instrument using transistors, which were pretty new at the time. Much less expensive and much easier to use than any previous synthesizer, the $11,000 Moog synthesizer and could emulate a wide range of acoustic instruments and go further, synthesizing sounds that were new.
In 1968, Moog's device became a hit when Walter Carlos (who later became Wendy Carlos) released an album, "Switched On Bach." Ultimately, he made a fortune, which he mostly lost later to not-so-good marketing and business skills, a story that is fairly common among electrical engineers. He sold his business and the name, ultimately regaining the rights to the Moog name and receiving a Grammy.
Moog claimed to have no personal taste in music and preferred silence. He lamented that contemporary music "is listened to by solitary people, isolated from their surroundings by headphones."
Source: The Week, September 9, 2005
Here is a song list from the album, "Moog (soundtrack from the Motion Picture)"
Abominatron -- 33
Another Year Away -- Roger O'Donnell
Baroque Hoedown (Pop Version) -- They Might Be Giants
Beautiful Love -- Tortoise
Blue Monday -- New Order
Bob's Funk -- The Moog Cookbook
Cars -- Gary Numan
Close to the Edge -- Yes
E.V.A. -- Jean Jacques Perrey
Endless Horizon (I Love Bob Mix) -- Electric Skychurch
I Am a Spaceman -- Charlie Clouser
Lucky Man -- Lake & Palmer Emerson
Micro Melodies -- The Album Leaf
Mixed Waste 4.2 -- Baiyon
Mongoloid -- Devo
Nanobot Highway -- Money Mark
Realistic Source -- Bostich
Sqeeble -- Plastiq Phantom
The Sentinel -- Psilonaut
Unavailable Memory -- Meat Beat Manifesto
Variation One -- Stereolab
When Bernie Speaks -- Bernie Worrell & Bootsy Collins
You Have Been Selected -- Pete DeVriese
You Moog Me -- Jean Jacques Perrey & Luke Vibert