May 23: Moog (as in “Vogue”)
Robert Moog, inventor of the Moog synthesizer, one of the first electronic instruments widely embraced in the musical world, was born in New York City on this date in 1934. His synthesizer was made possible by the invention of the transistor, which replaced bulky vacuum-tube electronic systems in the 1950s. The Moog synthesizer was demonstrated at the Monterey International Pop Festival in 1967, and was featured on Wendy Carlos’ 1968 hit record album, Switched-On Bach, the success of which made synthetic music very popular — especially after Moog released his mini-moog in 1970, a synthesizer small enough for rock bands to take on tour. (The success of Switched-On Bach also enabled Wendy Carlos to undergo male-to-female sex reassignment surgery.) Robert Moog also constructed theremins (the synthesizer featured for high-shrill background music in horror and sci-fi movies), and eventually manufactured thousands of them, as well as publishing a do-it-yourself theremin guide. Moog preferred the pronunciation of his name that rhymes with “vogue.” He died in Asheville, NC in 2005, age 71.
“I see myself as a toolmaker and the musicians are my customers.” —Robert Moog
Listen to a :58 excerpt from Wendy Carlos’s Switched-On Bach, Bach’s 2-Part Invention No. 8 in F
Watch an interview with Wendy Carlos about her electronic/classical work.