Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Robert Moog

Dr. Bob Prescribes Switched-On Bach

We pick back up where we left off in yesterday’s Music History Monday post, with the techno-wizard and American maverick-styled inventor Robert Moog’s education. Robert Moog (1934-2005), Continued Having graduated from Columbia and Queen’s College in 1957, Moog headed north to Cornell University, where he eventually received a Ph.D. in Engineering Physics in 1965. His fascination with electronic musical instruments remained undimmed. At a time (the early 1960s) when synthesizers were still the room-sized, tube-driven, super-expensive behemoths running on punched paper (like Viktor, aka the RCA Mark II Sound Synthesizer), Moog’s ambition was to create a synthesizer that would be accessible to all musicians, and not just an elite, academic few. Three parameters drove Moog’s thinking: his synthesizer had to be compact enough to be reasonably portable; it had to have a practical interface, meaning that it would have to be operated by a piano-like keyboard; and it had to be affordable. As it turned out, Robert Moog was the right man living at the right time, because the technology he required to create a portable, practical, and affordable synthesizer came into being at exactly the time he needed it, a technology called the high-density integrated circuit. Bear with me […]

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Music History Monday: Where is the “Sin” in “Synthesizer?: Robert Moog and “Synthetic” Sound

We mark the death on August 21, 2005 – 18 years ago today – of the American engineer and electronic music pioneer Robert Moog.  Born in New York City on May 23, 1934, he died of a brain tumor in Asheville, North Carolina, at the age of 71. First things first: let us pronounce this fine man’s surname properly.  It is not pronounced as “moo-g.”  “Moo-g” is a sound made by a cow after she painfully stubs her hoof.  Despite its double-o, the name is pronounced “mogue,” as in “vogue.” Moog didn’t invent the sound synthesizer.  Rather, he (and his inventing “partners,” the composer Herbert Arnold “Herb” Deutsch, 1932-2022 and, to a somewhat lesser degree, Wendy Carlos, born 1939) democratized the thing, making it affordable, portable, and playable enough to be bought and used by anyone who could get around a piano-like keyboard. Our Game Plan Today’s Music History Monday and tomorrow’s Dr. Bob Prescribes posts are conceived as a single post, one that I’ve divided in half and will post on two successive days.  As my Patreon subscribers know, I’ve done this before; it’s no big deal and I will certainly do it again.  However, for those of you […]

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