Monday, August 22, 2005

Bob Moog, RIP:

Bob Moog was not only the inventor of the synthesizer, but of the "Moog synthesizer" which had a classic, unmistakable sound. He died.

Those first synths were "monophonic" which means they could only play one note at a time. But the sounds that came out of them were so fat, you only needed to hear one note. Like computers, keyboards have come along way since then. But for most of the time since the mid-60s when the first Moogs were introduced, the "progress" of digital keyboards was debatable. They could do all sorts of things, but couldn't replicate the fat ballsy sounds of early analog synths. We are just now getting to the point where digital synths sound as good as the old analogs. And I'm sure that some purists would argue that they still don't and probably never will.

Some classic artists like Rick Wakeman and Keith Emerson still use their monophonic moogs (as one of many synths in their keyboard racks). Emerson is notable in that he possessed and still possesses one of the first line of "modular" Moogs. As far as I know there were only a relatively small number of them ever made, and they were hugely expensive, and big and cumbersome in size (and again, could only play one note at a time). Emerson had one, so did the Beatles, so did The Who and Wendy Carlos. Wendy Carlos, by the way, did some of the most brilliant early multitracking with her monophonic synth, of Bach's music, Switched on Bach.

Rick Wakeman used and still uses the "Minimoog" which is smaller and more practical than the modular Moog (more tour friendly) and sounds almost as good. Jan Hammer arguably one of the greatest (if not the greatest) keyboard improvisers, did some mind-blowing work with the Minimoog.

I remember a friend on mine, in music college, bought a beat up used ARP synth (which used related analog technology) for less than 200 bucks. It was small and could only play one note at a time but sounded a Hell of a lot better than the digital synths that cost thousands of bucks.

The analog Moogs were a classic sound of 70s progressive rock and to a lesser extent 70s fusion, two styles I greatly enjoy listening to. Here is a video recording of a performance of one of the best written progressive rock songs that features the Minimoog, Journey from Mariabronn, by Kansas. This was a very early recording and the keyboards are slightly out of tune, which I understand was one of the drawbacks with analog synths.


Karen said...

Thnaks for posting this one. I missed the news lately - but love the blog reads to catch up on what I missed.


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