Development of the Moog 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 oscillators, ADSR envelope generators, and other synthesizer modules with composer Herbert Deutsch.
Moog created the first voltage-controlled subtractive synthesizer to utilize a keyboard as a controller and demonstrated it at the AES convention in 1964. In 1966, Moog filed a patent application for his unique low-pass filter U.S. Patent 3,475,623, which issued in October 1969. He held several dozen patents.
Robert Moog employed his theremin company (R. A. Moog Co., which would later become Moog Music) 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 first Moog instruments were modular synthesizers. In 1971 Moog Music began production of the Minimoog Model D which was among the first widely available, portable and relatively affordable synthesizers.
One of Moog’s earliest musical customers was Wendy Carlos whom he credits with providing feedback that was valuable to the further development of Moog synthesizers. Through his involvement in electronic music, Moog developed close professional relationships with artists such as Don Buchla, Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman, John Cage, Gershon Kingsley, Clara Rockmore, and Pamelia Kurstin. In a 2000 interview, Moog said “I’m an engineer. I see myself as a toolmaker and the musicians are my customers. They use my tools.”
R.A. Moog Co. and Moog Music
n 1953 at age 19, Robert Moog founded his first company, R.A. Moog Co., to manufacture theremin kits. During the 1950s, composer and electronic music pioneer Raymond Scott approached Moog, asking him to design circuits for him. Moog later acknowledged Scott as an important influence. Later, in the 1960s, the company was employed to build modular synthesizers based on Moog’s designs.
In 1972 Moog changed the company’s name to Moog Music. Throughout the 1970s, Moog Music went through various changes of ownership, eventually being bought out by musical instrument manufacturer Norlin. Poor management and marketing led to Moog’s departure from his own company in 1977.
In 1978 after leaving his namesake firm, Moog started making electronic musical instruments again with a new company, Big Briar. Their first specialty was theremins, but by 1999 the company expanded to produce a line of analog effects pedals called moogerfoogers. In 1999, Moog partnered with Bomb Factory to co-develop the first digital effects based on Moog technology in the form of plugins for Pro Tools software.
Despite Moog Music’s closing in 1993, Robert Moog did not have the rights to market products using his own name throughout the 1990s. Big Briar acquired the rights to use the Moog Music name in 2002 after a legal battle with Don Martin who had previously bought the rights to the name Moog Music. At the same time, Moog designed a new version of the Minimoog called the Minimoog Voyager. The Voyager includes nearly all of the features of the original Model D in addition to numerous modern features.
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 considered a high point of his professional career. He also produced, in collaboration with first wife Shirleigh Moog, Mrs. Rockmore’s album, The Art of the Theremin. Dr. Moog was a principal interview subject in the award-winning documentary film, THEREMIN- An Electronic Odyssey, the success of which led to a revival of interest in the theremin. Moog Music went back to its roots and once again began manufacturing theremins. Thousands have been sold to date and are used by both professional and amateur musicians around the globe. In 1996 he published another do-it-yourself theremin guide. Today, Moog Music is the leading manufacturer of performance-quality theremins.
Pronunciation of Moog
The surname Moog is one of the most divergently pronounced names in popular culture. The following interview excerpt reveals Robert Moog’s preferred pronunciation:
— Reviewer: First off: Does your name rhyme with “vogue” or is like a cow’s “moo” plus a g at the end?
— Dr. Robert Moog: It rhymes with “vogue.” That is the usual German pronunciation. My father’s grandfather came from Marburg, Germany. I like the way that pronunciation sounds better than the way the cow’s “moo-g” sounds.
In a deleted scene from the DVD version of the documentary Moog, Moog describes the three pronunciations of the name Moog: the original Dutch [moːx], which he believes would be too demanding of English speakers; the preferred Anglo-German pronunciation, /moʊɡ/; and a more anglicized pronunciation, /muːɡ/. Moog reveals that some of his family members prefer the anglicized pronunciation, while others, including himself (and his wife) prefer the Anglo-German pronunciation.