Robert Moog – Lemelson-MIT
Robert Moog was born in 1934 in New York City. when he was a child, his mother encouraged him to study music, so he learned to play the piano. meanwhile, he also spent a lot of time with his father, with whom he liked to play electronics. By the time Moog reached his teens, these two interests had converged, and building novelty, simple electronic musical instruments had become a hobby.
in 1949, moog built his first theremin from instructions he found in a magazine. He was fascinated by the theatrical and mysterious sounds that the instrument, invented by Russian inventor Leon Theremin in the 1920s, could create. The Theremin is played by waving the hands near two metal rods, which control pitch and volume, which they are attached to a nondescript wooden cabinet. it is very big and difficult to play. therefore, the popularity of him faded rather quickly.
moog, however, maintained his interest in the theremin throughout his college years. After earning a BS in physics from Queens University and a BS in electrical engineering from Columbia University, Moog earned a Ph.D. in engineering physics from Cornell University. While still a student, Moog founded the R.A. moog company as a part time business to design and build electronic musical instruments. he also published an article for the January 1961 issue of electronics world magazine. after the issue was published, moog sold 1,000 theremin kits out of his three-bedroom apartment.
Eventually, moog began producing instruments of its own design. After toying with the idea of a portable guitar amp, Moog turned to the synthesizer. During a convention in 1963, Moog was presented with the idea of building new circuits that were capable of producing sound. In 1964, he was invited to exhibit his circuitry at the Audio Engineering Society convention. soon after, moog completed his Ph.D. and began making electronic music synthesizers, and it wasn’t long before synthesizers were transitioning from computers to instruments that could be found in any music store.
moog designed his first synthesizers in collaboration with composers herbert a. Deutsch and Walter Carlos. Significantly, Moog’s was the first synthesizer to use Attack-Decay-Sustain-Release (ADSR) envelopes, configured with four different knobs, which control the onset, pitch, and release qualities of a sound. Like many of his designs, Moog’s envelope generators became a staple of later synthesizers. The sound was monophonic, meaning it was produced one note at a time, but that was enough since studio recording techniques could create entire orchestras from single notes in the late 1960s. The Moog Synthesizer it also featured the voltage-controlled low-pass filter that came to be known as the moog filter, which was capable of creating a variety of full trumpet, string, and vocal tones. the filter was patented in 1968.
after the success of carlos’ album “switched on bach”, which was entirely recorded using moog synthesizers, moog instruments leapt into mainstream popular music. In 1971, his company name was changed to Moog Music, Inc., and in 1973, the company became a division of Norlin Music, Inc. Moog served as the president of Moog Music until 1977. The MicroMoog was the last synthesizer created by Moog to be named after him. After Norlin took over the company from him, including synth design, Moog spent the rest of his days at the company designing guitar effects and guitar amps. He left Moog Music in 1977 and blamed corporate politics for his departure.
moog and his family moved from new york state to western north carolina in 1978. there he founded big briar, inc. in order to design and build new electronic music equipment, especially new types of performance control devices. At the International Computer Music Conference in 1982, he introduced the Multi-Touch Sensitive Keyboard, developed with John Eaton of Indiana University. In addition to responding to the downward movement of a key, the keyboard also detects the horizontal position of the finger that is playing it. from 1984 to 1988, moog was a full-time consultant and vice president of new product research for kurzweil music systems.
moog’s awards include the silver medal from the engineering society, the trustee’s award from the national academy of recording arts and sciences, the billboard magazine tastemaker award, and the seamus award from the Electroacoustic Music Society in America.
moog passed away on august 21, 2005 in asheville, north carolina.