A tribute to the eccentric synthesizer. By Hua Hsu
Posted Friday, Sept. 16, 2005, at 4:22 AM PT
Robert Moog once described his relationship with electronic equipment as inhabiting a space "between discovering and witnessing." It was precisely this blend of effortless genius and geeky, childlike awe that endeared Moog, who died last month at age 71, to the thousands of musicians who fell in love with his inventions over the years. The New York native got his start in the 1950s selling do-it-yourself theremin kits in the back pages of hobbyist magazines. While working at the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center in the '60s, he developed the prototype for the keyboard-operated synthesizer that would become known as the Moog. Over the ensuing decades, as the size of the Moog shrank from a room to a closet to a desk, the synthesizer's whimsical sound palette won such fans as the Beatles, Stevie Wonder, and Kraftwerk. What was unique about Moog was that he never considered the human and the circuit board to be warring factions. Instead, he hoped the two would become intimate conspirators, spurring each other on in pursuit of sounds as sophisticated and far-reaching as they were beautiful.