Electronic music pioneer Bob Moog, creator of the Minimoog synthesizer revolutionized the sound and the role of keyboardists. Before Moog’s invention, synthesizers were big, unruly instruments that could easily take up a whole room (laboratory). Unveiled in 1970, the Minimoog was the first, easily-portable synthesizer and brought what had been lab-bound electronic music to the masses and the stage; thus laying the foundation for the latter-day keyboard and MIDI-based marvels.
Born in 1934 in New York City, Moog (rhymes with vogue) took piano lessons as a child. During his teens, he built Theremins (the electronic sound instrument used to make the high-pitched eerie squeals in ’50s-era sci-fi/horror movies). In 1957, he earned a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Queens College, Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Columbia University and a Ph. D. in Engineering Physics from Cornell University. In 1954, Moog founded the R. A. Moog Company as a part-time business, designing and building electronic musical instruments in a small apartment with his wife. The company became a full-time business in 1964, the year it introduced a line of electronic music synthesis equipment.
Artist/engineer Wendy Carlos purchased one of Moog’s instruments and used it to create the groundbreaking Switched on Bach album. Certified gold, the LP peaked at number ten pop in spring 1969. It’s success caused the demand for Moog’s instruments to soar. His line expanded to include the Polymoog, the Multimoog, the Memorymoog, and the strap-on Liberation. In 1971, the name of the company was changed to Moog Music, Inc. Two years later, the company became a division of Norlin Music, Inc., with Moog serving as president of Moog Music until 1977. From 1984 to 1988, Moog was a full-time consultant and Vice President of New Product Research for Kurzweil Music Systems.
Moog’s career is sprinkled with awards: honorary doctorates from Polytechnic University (New York and Lycoming College, the Silver Medal of The Audio Engineering Society, the Trustee’s Award of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, the Bilboard Magazine Trendsetter’s Award, and the SEAMUS award from the Society of Electroacoustic Music in the United States. He has written and spoken widely on topics related to music technology and contributed articles to the Encyclopedia Brittancia and the Encyclopedia of Applied Physics. The Moog family moved from New York State to western North Carolina in 1978. There he founded Big Briar, Inc., where he continued to design and building novel electronic music equipment.