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So Long, Bob

Robert A. Moog (May 23, 1934 – August 21, 2005).
Robert A. Moog (May 23, 1934 – August 21, 2005).

Bob Moog died on Sunday at his home in Asheville, N.C. He was 71.

Dr. Moog was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer (glioblastoma multiforme or GBM) in late April and had received both radiation treatment and chemotherapy to help combat the disease.

He is survived by his wife, Ileana, his five children, Laura Moog Lanier, Matthew Moog, Michelle Moog-Koussa, Renee Moog, and Miranda Richmond; and the mother of his children, Shirleigh Moog.

The Bob Moog Foundation (mattmoog@yahoo.com) has been created as a memorial, with the aim of continuing his life’s work of developing electronic music.


Dr. Robert A. Moog was a pioneer of electronic music, best known as the inventor of the Moog synthesizer.

A native of New York City (May 23, 1934), he earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from Queens College, New York, a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Columbia University, and a Ph.D. in engineering physics from Cornell University. He received a Grammy Trustees Award for lifetime achievement in 1970 and, in 2001, the Polar Music Prize, dubbed Sweden’s “music Nobel prize”, for designing the MiniMoog, “the first compact, easy-to-use synthesizer”.

The Moog synthesizer was one of the first widely used electronic musical instruments. Early developmental work on the components of the synthesizer occurred at the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center, now the Computer Music Center. While there Moog developed the voltage controlled oscillator and ADSR envelope generators.

Bob Moog with his synthesizers.
Bob Moog with his synthesizers.

Moog created the first modern, realtime playable and reconfigurable music synthesizer in 1963 and demonstrated it at the AES convention the following year. It sometimes took hours to set up the machine for a new sound. Robert Moog employed his theremin company (R. A. Moog Co.) to manufacture and market his synthesizers. Unlike the few other 1960s synthesizer manufacturers, Moog shipped a piano-style keyboard as the standard user interface to his synthesizers. Moog also established standards for analog synthesizer control interfacing, with a logarithmic one volt-per-octave pitch control and a separate pulse triggering signal.

The Minimoog.
The Minimoog.

The first Moog instruments were modular synthesizers. In 1971 Moog broke into the mass market with the Minimoog Model D, an all-in-one instrument. The Minimoog was a 44-key scaled-down version of Moog’s custom modular synths and featured 3 oscillators with six selectable waveshapes, an oscillator mixer, a pitch wheel, and a modulation wheel. The third oscillator could also function as an LFO (low-frequency oscillator). The Minimoog became the most popular monophonic synthesizer of the 1970s, selling approximately 13,000 units between 1971 and 1982.

Another widely used and extremely popular synth of Moog’s was the Taurus bass pedal synthesizer. Released in 1975, its pedals were similar in design to organ pedals and triggered synthetic bass sounds. The Taurus was known for a “fat” bass sound and was used by musicians such as Genesis, Rush, U2, Yes, The Police, and many others. Production of the original was discontinued in 1981 when it was replaced by the Taurus II.

It is believed that the first record to feature a Moog synthesizer was Cosmic Sounds by The Zodiac. The first popular music album to feature the instrument was Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, & Jones, Ltd. by The Monkees. Wendy Carlos released major Moog albums in 1968 and 1969: Switched-On Bach and The Well-Tempered Synthesizer. The former earned Carlos three Grammys.

Popularity surged in the 1970s then declined in the 1980s as digital synthesizers gained traction in the market. By the mid-1990s, analog synthesizers were again highly sought after and prized for their classic sound. As of 2004, more than 15 companies are making Moog-style synthesizer modules.

In 1972 Moog had changed his company name to Moog Music. It went through various changes of ownership, eventually being bought out by musical instrument manufacturer Norlin. Norlin produced a number of synthesizers under the Moog name, but they were less successful than Moog’s own designs. Moog Music closed its doors in 1987.

After leaving his namesake firm, Bob Moog started making electronic musical instruments again with a new company, Big Briar. Their first specialty was theremins, but by 1999 they expanded to producing a line of analog effects pedals under the Moogerfooger moniker.

Also in 1999, Bob partnered with BombFactory to co-develop the first digital effects based on Moog technology in the form of plug-ins for Pro Tools software.

The new Minimoog Voyager Electric Blue.
The new Minimoog Voyager Electric Blue.

Bob Moog bought back the MoogMusic name in 2002 and produced a new version of the Minimoog called the Minimoog Voyager. The Voyager includes nearly all of the features of the model D, as well as a variable waveshape controller, dedicated LFO, FM capabilities with oscillator 3, and expansion capabilities via the Moogerfooger effects and the VX-351 Voyager Expander.

Bob Moog with two of his theremin models.
Bob Moog with two of his theremin models.

Robert Moog constructed his own theremin as early as 1949. Later he described a theremin in the hobbyist magazine Electronics World and offered a kit of parts for the construction of the Electronic World’s Theremin, which became very successful. In the late 1980s, Moog repaired the original theremin of Clara Rockmore, an accomplishment which he considers as a high point of his professional career. He also helped to produce her album The Art of the Theremin. In 1996 he published another do-it-yourself theremin guide. Today, Moog Music is the leading manufacturer of performance-quality theremins.

[This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article: Robert Moog.]

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