Dr. Robert Moog, whose last name actually rhymes with “vogue,” is universally lauded as the father of musical synthesis. I’m honored to say that he was also a mentor and friend when I worked as a product specialist and clinician for Kurzweil Music Systems in the 1980s.
Bob’s most famous invention, the Moog Synthesizer, produced other-worldly or majestic sounds that have been utilized by The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Doors, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Electric Light Orchestra, Duran Duran and countless other recording artists. I owned and toured with a modular Moog IIIC and other Moog products throughout my live music and composing careers. From my view as a musician and composer, Bob’s genius can not be understated.
In a March 1997 interview with the online magazine Perfect Sound Forever, Dr. Moog was asked, “Were you worried that synthesizers would replace musicians/orchestras?” Bob replied, “I was never worried that synthesizers would replace musicians. First of all, you have to be a musician in order to make music with a synthesizer. And second, I never thought that analog synthesizer sounds would ever be mistaken for traditional musical instrument sounds. To me the synthesizer was always a source of new sounds that musicians could use to expand the range of possibilities for making music.”
That was a brief but very accurate observation. A synthesizer or any musical instrument does not play itself. It is a tool with which a musician or composer can create and perform music. There now are software products that emulate the sounds of orchestral instruments, as well as synthesizers, and I frequently use them to compose music, but the music does not compose itself.
Getting back to Bob Moog and his affiliation with Kurzweil, at the time I met him, he was Vice President for new product research. When I joined the company, it was “jaw-droppingly” cool to be working alongside this legend. He was extremely intelligent and gave very honest feedback when asked for his opinions on music or technology.
I specifically remember talking to him about an idea I had for a new piece of equipment. Bob simply responded, “You can build anything you want, but that doesn’t mean you can sell it.” That kind of honesty made me realize that Bob was truly passionate about his work and was willing to pass on his knowledge.
He also was a very congenial and approachable guy with a great sense of humor. I did a brief tour with him to promote Kurzweil equipment and he would always go out of his way to talk to everyone who wanted to talk to him. There were also a few company parties where we all cut loose. Bob was not a wallflower and partied as hard as we did. What a refreshing thing, to have known someone who was both a true innovator and such a humble and genuine person. Thank you Bob!