Unsynthesized appreciation


Bob Moog, inventor of the synthesizer, died on Sunday at the age of 71.
Charles G. Hill marks his passing with a couple of comments from those who recorded with the instrument in the 1960s.

At some point in my late pre-adolescence, I talked my parents into doing a Columbia Record Club 12-albums-for-a-penny deal. Two of the selections I chose were Switched-On Bach by Walter (as she then was) Carlos and Everything You Always Wanted to Hear on the Moog. ("Semi-conducted by Andrew Kazdin and Thomas Z. Shepherd.") The latter album included three Spanish-themed pieces by French composers ("España" by Chabrier, "Malagueña" by Lecuona, and "March of the Toreadors," from Carmen by Bizet) on one side, and Ravel's "Bolero" on the flip side, complete with synthesized applause at the end. For a good part of one school year, I drove my parents nuts by playing "España" -- every morning, all six glorious minutes of it -- as my wake-up music on my little JCPenney turntable. Scoff if you will, but it was my introduction to classical music. (This page has links to MP3s of "España" and "Malagueña".)

The instrument was still in its infancy when that album was recorded, in 1973. Every note had to be laid down separately and none of the instruments sounded quite like the analog instruments they sought to imitate. But that was part of the charm.

In the four decades since the first synthesizer made its debut, synthesizers have gone from analog to digital and come ever closer to perfectly imitating the sounds of vibrating brass and catgut. Families who would never have the space or room for a piano can buy an inexpensive keyboard that produces excellent sound. Bob Moog, who started out building theremins, returned in his later years to designing analog electronic instruments, including a new theremin and a new version of his Minimoog. The strange new sounds that were produced in pursuit of reproducing old sounds have proven to be interesting in their own right, and no doubt you can buy a digital synthesizer capable of almost perfectly imitating a Moog analog synth.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on August 24, 2005 2:13 AM.

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