Dr Robert Moog

Dr Robert Moog, inventor of the Moog synthesiser, one of the first widely-used electronic musical instruments, passed away on this day in 2005 – aged 71.

He started off in his early teens by making his own Theremin, but it would be his range of synthesisers which would make him such a pioneering and legendary figure: he would go on to win Sweden’s Polar prize in 2001 and there is an annual Moogfest held in his honour. Certainly, some of the biggest names in music owe him an enormous debt for creating such remarkable equipment to play around with.

With the introduction of the portable Mini Moog in 1970, a very expensive piece of kit was put in reach to many and could be taken on the road (the 1964 original filled a room with a price to match, see Wendy Carlos’ gallery for proof of this).

It was Wendy Carlos and her 1968 triple Grammy award-winning album, Switched-On Bach, an album of electronic versions of the composer’s most famed pieces, that brought the Moog to prominence. The Well-Tempered Synthesizer followed a year later, and who can forget the eerie soundtrack of Stanley Kubrick’s classic 1971 movie, A Clockwork Orange, with classical pieces electronically altered?

There then, somewhat inevitably, followed myriad Moog re-interpretations of the hits of the day, covering all genres of music – such as this version of Bob Dylan’s ‘Lay Lady Lay’, by Mike Melvoin. (For a selection of alternative rock covers performed using Moogs and other analogue synthesisers, check out the debut album from The Moog Cookbook. ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ is my favourite.)

The Monkees used a Moog on Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones, Ltd (listen to the track ‘Daily Nightly’); the Beatles, likewise, on Abbey Road, particularly on ‘Because’. George Harrison couldn’t not on his 1969 Electronic Sound album.

Stevie Wonder would bag loads of awards, including Grammys, in 1973 and 1974 for Talking Book and Innervisions. Just listen to the sounds he achieved, courtesy of Dr Moog, on the funky ‘Living for the City’ and the even funkier ‘Superstition’.

Other notable Moog-users include Genesis (‘The Battle of Epping Forest’), Devo (‘Mongoloid’), ELO (‘Turn to Stone’), Kraftwerk (‘Autobahn’) and Yes (‘Close to the Edge’), although it’s been used by acts as diverse as Abba (‘S.O.S.’), Donna Summer (‘I Feel Love’), Dream Theater (‘Octavarium’), Air (‘La Femme d’Argent’) and Coldplay (‘Life in Technicolour’) – and too many ’80s New Wave bands to mention or, indeed, stomach (New Order’s ‘Blue Monday’ springs to mind).

Perhaps the most well-known of all is Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s ‘Lucky Man’.

The Doors’ ‘Strange Days’ was one of the first, Joni Mitchell’s ‘The Jungle Line’ one of the most innovative, Gary Numan’s ‘Cars’ one of the most enduring…

Can you think of any more, either from film scores or your favourite artists? (Not least from Pink Floyd; I’m thinking ‘Welcome to the Machine’…)

Lastly, as a duty of respect to perhaps the most mispronounced man in music history, if, like me, you always thought that ‘Moog’ sounded like the noise a cow makes, you should actually be pronouncing it so that it rhymes with ‘rogue’.

Author: FEd

Features Editor of David Gilmour’s official blog, The Blog (‘Features’ previously being its rather naff title), affectionately – or lazily – shortened to ‘FEd’.

49 thoughts on “Dr Robert Moog”

  1. I was thinking that music had a rebirth with the Moog invention… all my favorite musicians and sounds are filled with that magic.

    We are waiting for you in Argentina, David!!!

  2. You can hear the moog in a lot of disco, love it or hate it. 😀

    My husband has a minimoog, but I have only heard him fiddle around with it once or twice. It’s more of a relic than anything since he is a guitar player, mainly.

    I never knew that Moog rhymes with rogue. It may take my brain some time to get that right!

  3. I have played with different versions of the Moog, and I am here to tell you it is hard to get a particular sound from it and once you use a sound that you like, it is very difficult to get the sound again. But, even in the hands of a nonmusician like me, the Moog made great things possible.

    1. I wanted to mention that it has been lots of fun chatting with Ulli, Michele, Patricia, Ash (whisper, whisper), and several others I am inevitably forgetting.

      Thanks, all, for being so easy and fun to chat with.

  4. ‘Electric Kokanut – Sounds of the Moog’ was a seventies album with nothing but Moog tracks on it, such as Popcorn by Hot Butter and Moldy Old Doe which I think was written for the Moog, brings back nice memories.

  5. Hello!

    My name is Ricardo Almeida, I’m from Brasil, soul coast!

    I don’t speak English, sorry, but DAVID GILMOUR is the “best”, incredible. My dream is to have a FENDER STRATOCASTER SIGNATURE (black), with his signature. I see it on the FENDER site, it is a FANTASTIC GUITAR, it is my”dream”.

    I play the guitar, I have a black acoustic guitar (folk), I see DVDs’ shows by DAVID and I play your solos, it’s incredible.

    He is wonderful, magnificent… this moment I see in my computer a DVD of the STRAT PACK live show in London, September 2004, and DAVID is playing “COMING BACK TO LIFE”.

  6. Interesting topic. I, too, pronounced it “moo” + “g” , not the correct way to rhyme with vogue. I wonder how this man and his achievement was so mispronounced and it was uncaught for so many years, even by musicians.

    The first “Julia Dream” I looked up yesterday on YouTube featured Rick playing a melotron and I am still yet to find the meaning of that word.

    Another interesting bit is a discussion David Gilmour had with Rick on Disc 3 at Live at Gdansk Easter Egg where they are talking about running something through a Leslie and into Rick’s keyboard.

    Which brings me to my third query which I guess most of you know about and have discussed about Pink Floyd.

    The Azimuth Co-ordinator was a sound system that was stollen twice but ended up in the Albert and Victoria Museum on Exhibit. I got that off the Pink Floyd site at pinkfloyd.com. That was a quadraphonic type sound Pink Floyd created, right? Rick used it on his keyboard unless I am wrong. I read somewhere it was a joystick but I am not sure what I read was right about that.

    My favorite group who used synthesizers was “Yes”. And of course, hearing and seeing Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s use of the moog synthesizer was probably the best concert experience with that system.

    Dr. Robert Moog starred in a film titled “Moog” in 2004 that was a documentary/musical.

    1. A Mellotron is a keyboard instrument that plays back tape recordings, usually of strings, flutes, or choirs. The Beatles, Moody Blues, Genesis, King Crimson, and Yes used them extensively to create those symphonic sounds.

    2. Hi Patricia,

      The Azimuth Coordinator was a brave early version of nowadays 5.1 mixing consoles, where the engineer can pan the sound sources on 6 different locations instead of just stereo, adding front centre, centre, rear left, rear right.

      Quadraphonic mixes were just front and rear L+R, and I believe Pink Floyd were the first band to use it live, quite a challenging technique if you compare it to the later fully automated digital consoles.

      I think after the early years the joystick mechanism, which basically commanded multiple panning potentiometers, was abandoned because probably unreliable on the long run.

    1. Jordan Rudess plays one of the early Moogs on stage at one concert that’s been captured on DVD, if I’m not mistaken.

  7. The time has come. My big holiday starts off tomorrow night in Cardiff with a concert of U2. Really looking forward to that.

    Sunday morning I travel to Heathrow and spend 10 days in the US. First, I fly to San Francisco, then Las Vegas then finally Los Angeles. Holiday of a lifetime. 🙂

    All the best and Happy Days,
    Simon J

  8. the moog was awesome.

    how about the who and won’t get fooled again? i think that had moog on it.

    1. Actually Pete Townshend used an ARP synth for this song as well as Baba O’Riley and a few others. He would program the numbers in according to some philosophical/meditative pattern and lo and behold magic!

      Enjoy the sound anyhow,
      Jonathan

  9. There’s a lovely one by Brian Eno called ‘An Ending’ that was originally written for a NASA documentary called ‘For All Mankind’.

    Disclaimer: It sounds like a Mini Moog to me anyway, I’m no expert. :v

    1. Hi Lorraine,

      your name made me think that also Uriah Heep frequently played moogs.

      There is a song in their album “The Magician’s Birthday” called “Sweet Lorraine”. Did you know it? Here it is, if you want to listen. 🙂

    2. Hi Alessandra,

      Thanks for that, I hadn’t heard it before. What it (well, that and a combination of the ‘Wild Horses’ on the next blog topic) did make me think of is what I was actually listening to in 1973.

      Oh Donny. :v

  10. Hey FEd,

    I’m wondering if David has had the chance of perusing the new MOOG Guitar? Seems a very interesting device. 😀

  11. Back in college I took an Electronic Music class. Aside from learning the early history of this there was also a studio that we got to play in. The studio had an early Moog synthesizer in it along with other equipment and reel to reel tape players. This Moog was quite fascinating in that you had all kind of cables to plug in and out.

    However, I agree with another poster that it was difficult to recreate a sound more than once unless you kept meticulous notes.

    The class was quite fun though and I did get an A.

    Thanks.

    Andrew

  12. By and far the best exemplary use of the Moog synthesizer was by Wendy Carlos on the magnificent soundtrack to Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (which also happens to be one of my favorite movies… huh, imagine that! 😉 ).

    Reshaping movements by Purcel, Rossini and Beethoven, Carlos whips up a devilish mixture of synthesized, brooding doom over the dangerously hyper-realistic imagery of Kubrik’s… for me the perfect marriage of image and sound ever put to film stock!

    Give it a listen, particularly Carlos’s piece Title Music from a Clockwork Orange to hear the Moog synthesizer to great aplomb.

    Great topic, FEd… as usual!

    Have a great weekend,
    Dirwood

    1. Thanks very much.

      Did you know that the score for Kubrick’s The Shining, which just so happens to be one of my favourite movies, was also intended to be entirely Moog-based?

      Only one track – Wendy Carlos again, as Alessandra noted – made the final cut in the end: a version of Hector Berlioz’s ‘Symphonie Fantastique’.

  13. My first experince hearing the Moog was in the mid 80s. I followed a new and up coming band before they successfully launched their music career. Their name “Saga”.

    I still listen to them on the radio and guitarist Ian so much reminded me of David but different styles. They were and are truly amazing to watch.

    Good topic Fed.

  14. FEd,

    What a coincidence this topic is for me. Just the other day I was going through my Hawkwind albums and CDs. Have not listened to them in quite some time. They used (and still use) Synthesizers and Electronics more than any other band that I can think of off the top of my head.

    Spent the afternoon listening to In Search Of Space, Space Ritual, Hall Of The Mountain Grill, Warrior On The Edge Of Time, great stuff. The only thing missing was the amazing Stacia. Also got to love a band that brought us Lemmy.

    Hope everyone has a great weekend,
    Hoss

  15. FEd,

    Alan Parsons likened his work to what Stanley Kubrick’s work did for film.

    I love this which I believe you play guitar on. If not a moog synthesizer, then maybe you can tell us what Alan is using.

    It is written that he went beyond the scope of what was considered a studio engineer on albums like “The Dark Side of the Moon” with Pink Floyd and “Abbey Road'” with The Beatles.

    When we start talking synthesizers, echo chambers and such stuff, I get lost.

    Patricia 😕

    1. Return to Tunguska is an incredible track, David’s lap steel work here always reminded me of One of These Days and Shine On.

      We want more collaborations like this between Alan and David. 😀

  16. Apart from Kraftwerk and Air that you already mentioned, I’m thinking of Tangerine Dream, Vangelis and Jean Michel Jarre.

    Jean Michel Jarre used a Mini Moog in his album ‘Chronologie’, which is not his most famous. ‘Oxygène’ and ‘Equinoxe’ are more known, but he didn’t use a Moog Synthetiser at this time.

    Here is the track ‘Chronologie 4’.

    Michèle

  17. Indeed, Dr. Moog’s invention has changed the music world, given us an instrument capable of sounds never heard before.

    I’d like to add to the list of great players – Jan Hammer, Herbie Hancock, Patrick Moraz, and David Sancious. Just as with the recently departed Les Paul, as well as the late, great Leo Fender, it’s hard to imagine modern music without their brilliant contributions.

    Now, let’s crank up those Strats, Les Pauls, and Minimoogs!

    Cheers;
    Bill C

  18. Thanks for the link to Wendy Carlos’ website, very interesting. “Rocky Mountains” from “The Shining” is one of my favourite tracks, very scary. 😀

    As for Pink Floyd’s songs, the first which spring to my mind are “Any Colour You Like”, “Welcome to the Machine”, “Dogs” and (I’m not sure it was a moog, but it seems to me) “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”. Richard Wright was just great in playing it.

    Genesis’ “The Battle of Epping Forest” and Marillion’s “Pseudo Silk Kimono” are two of my favourites.

    Here is something from Italy.

    It seems PFM’s “Impressioni di Settembre” was the first Italian song featuring a moog, I don’t know if it’s true.

    Good weekend to everyone. 🙂

  19. Interesting topic – I was just humming Welcome to the Machine when I read the post.

    Now that I know how to pronounce its name, I guess I’ll have to stop telling the joke what instrument do cows like to play? The moo-g. (Slaps oneself on the back, bent double laughing… no? Oh well).

    Hope all’s well,

    Dom
    x x x

  20. I have always loved Vangelis and a lot of people think it was a mistake being taken in as composer/consultant to Yes (uncredited), first to Jon and then to Wakeman.

    Jon and Vangelis composed and played the fourth song at the New Year’s Fireworks in Sydney, Australia, called ‘Creation’. So they are working together.

    On all counts, Vangelis is best known as the composer to the screenscores for “Bladrunner” and “Chariots of Fire”.

    I think he is unrated. This is the last paragraph in Wikipedia about him:

    In a career spanning over 47 years, writing and composing more than 40 albums, Vangelis is generally regarded by music critics as one of the greatest composers of electronic music of all time.

    We have to give Dr. Moog credit for developing the synthesizer and min-moog, but I think Vangelis really was on top of composing with the synthesizers in a way that sets him apart from anyone else. Of course, Wendy Carlos (formerly Walter Carlos) did the electronic music to The Clockwork Orange, I believe you already stated that.

    Here is the link for the 2008 Sydney fireworks and it is hard to find. Vangelis is very modest. I had to research then search YouTube to find the right one.

    Patricia 8|

  21. Hi Patricia,

    You’re right, the Azimuth Co-ordinator was the name for their 360 sound system and Rick did use a joystick to pan the sound around the concert hall, e.g. during the middle section of “Set the Controls”.

    However, David’s guitar was also fed into the system and panned around the hall as well as various sound effects, e.g. cash registers during “Money”. This was an amazing system to hear live, even more so when you consider that the guys were experimenting with this back in 1968.

    Mark

  22. There is a series of albums by Klaus Schulze of Tangerine Dream called ‘Dark Side of The Moog’ that include various acts of sacrilege such as this one.

  23. RIP Dr Robert Moog. Because of your amazing vision, we all got to enjoy such amazing music. Plus, you were definitely one of the good guys.

    One example not included above is Marillion’s “Pseudo Silk Kimono”.

    1. “Pseudo Silk Kimono” is a good song.

      Another of my favourites with Moog is “Tom Sawyer” by Rush.

  24. The Moog was a revelation and an invaluable source of inspirations to all modern musicians.

    I think there’s plenty of Moog sounds in the Shine On You Crazy Diamond synth suite, and it couldn’t have possibly achieved the glory it did without the genius of the inventor, Robert Moog, and of the composer, Richard Wright.

  25. Dear FEd,

    I agree that this is a very interesting and fact filled article. Thank you for sharing it with your viewers.

    Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s “Lucky Man” is one of my favorites. Even my teenagers appreciate that song. Another more recent song that comes to mind for me would be Cher’s “Do You Believe”. I really like the effect in that song also.

    Hope today is finding everyone well. First day back to school for my kids and my 11th grader is starting his first year of college as well. My stomach is nervous for him. Pray he does well.

    Love to the world.

  26. Dear FEd,

    Forgot to mention a thanks for reminding me of Switched-On Bach. I use to have that album and loved it. Now I will have to find it and add it to my current collection.

    Thanks again.

  27. Dear FEd,

    I’m so impressed at your dedication. Here it is Sunday and you are busy posting the blog. Hats off to you. You really must get rest too you know.

    Thanks for your dedication.

  28. I just knew about the existence of an old electronic instrument called Theremin.

    It was invented in 1928 and it’s now produced by Moog, too.

    It seems also The Beach Boys used it, for example on “Good Vibrations”.

    1. I was reading again your post, FEd, and I saw you had already mentioned the Theremin.

      Sorry, I didn’t notice it. :v

  29. Dear FEd,

    Well Amazon came through and a copy of Switched on Bach is on its way. Have to have it now.

    Thanks again for the reminder. Now I can’t wait to hear it. 🙂

    1. Dear FEd,

      Switched on Bach sounds even better than many moons ago due to updated high tech equipment. Just got it today and popped it on my MP3 as fast as I could.

      Anyone who loves the classics and the unique sounds of the synthesiser should really enjoy this again as I have.

      Thanks again FEd.

      Love to the World.

  30. Oh yes, the Moog synthesizer. What would popular music be without it today?

    Incredible, what sounds can be created on the base of some noise, pink noise to be technically exact. I remember a concert with the Japanese artist Tomita on BBC radio, here in Germany broadcast by BFBS many years ago. There Tomita gave a little demonstration how that noise changed to sounds, very impressive.

    Other musicians I have in mind, using Moogs, are Vangelis, Kitaro, Klaus Schulze and some others.

    Another sound machine with incredible possibilities was the vocoder: voice encoder. This device allowed voices to be overlapped/modulated with instrumental sounds. When I’m right with my knowledge about Pink Floyd, they used a vocoder on “Animals” for the first time.

    Regards
    Herbert

  31. His a big loss. His invention is one of the most important inventions of modern times.

    We lost one of the great minds of our time. Hope his works will serve as an inspiration.

    David M.

  32. This man was amazing! Thank you for posting!

    If Moog had longer hair and longer moustache he would look like Einstein! Co-incidence? 😉

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