RIP: Robert A. Moog

2 September 2005

Robert A. Moog died a few days ago at his home in Asheville, North Carolina. He was a brilliant pioneer in the field of sound synthesis.

Although I took piano lessons when I was a boy, my mother's recordings of classical music performed on traditional instruments couldn't hold my attention for long. But when she brought home a copy of Walter Carlos' Clockwork Orange, created entirely with very early Moog synthesizers, I was riveted. That record held the most fascinating, eerie, demonic, angelic sounds I'd ever heard. I played it over and over, and proselytized to my baffled schoolmates about the marvelous Moog synthesizer. Moog, a "scientist who spoke music", had created a new instrument, and Carlos, a "musician who spoke science", played it -- and together they filled my 8-year-old heart and mind with awe and wonder. Thirty years later, that album is still one of the favorites of my large collection, and it still transports me to a place no other music does.

As I was reading Moog's obituary, my eyes widened when I came to the following:

Moog drove an aging Toyota painted with a snail, vines and a fish blowing bubbles. "When I drive that thing around, people smile at me," he said. "I really feel I'm enhancing the environment."
My childhood hero, at age 71, drove an art car? Unbelievable!

Rest in peace, Mr. Moog. I'll be driving one when I'm 71 too, and playing Moog synthesizer music on the stereo.

 


I doubt that Walter Carlos' Clockwork Orange would affect most people the way it does me, but in case you want to check it out, the CD release is retitled A Clockwork Orange: Wendy Carlos's Complete Original Score. (Wendy published under the name Walter in her early days.) Don't confuse it with the official movie soundtrack.

There's a documentary film called Moog, which reportedly shows his art car. I've ordered a copy.

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