By Michelle Moog-Koussa
Michelle Moog-Koussa is the daughter of
Bob Moog and the founder and Executive
Director of the Bob Moog Memorial Foundation.
You can mail a donation of any size to:
Bob Moog Foundation, P.O. Box
8136, Asheville, NC 28814.
Through education programs, a historic archive, and a planned museum,
the Bob Moog Foundation carries on his legacy.
For more information, visit www.moogfoundation.org
April 29, 2005 is a date I will never forget. While working at my gift
boutique in Asheville, North Carolina, my father called to share the reason
he’d been having trouble moving his left arm. He’d had an MRI a few
days prior, and the results were in. “Well, I don’t have a pinched nerve,”
he declared with authority, “I have a brain tumor.”
With this five-word pronouncement, my whole world shifted. My
dad? My pillar of quiet wisdom and logical thinking? He hardly ever had
a cold, or any major health issues. How could a human being so resilient
suddenly be weakened by something so damning?
Three months and three weeks later, on August 21, 2005, my father
died. He was barely 71 years old.
Bob Moog with an early Moog Modular synthesizer.
The emotional devastation was countered by a stunning revelation
that came by way of the Internet. At the beginning of July, as Dad’s health
declined, my brother Matthew created a page on the CaringBridge website
(caringbridge.org) as a way for the family to keep close friends informed
of Dad’s condition. Before we knew it, more than just close friends were
visiting the site. What happened between July 7 and August 21 was an
outpouring, with over 80,000 people logging on.
During these seven weeks, thousands of people wrote tributes to Bob
Moog in the guestbook of his CaringBridge webpage. My family and I
read them all, and we were overwhelmed at the depth of connection
expressed from all over the world. People from 70 countries expressed
such sentiments as, “Bob Moog gave me a voice for my creativity,” “Bob
Moog changed the face of music forever,” and “I’m a musician because
of Bob Moog’s instruments.”
This was an awakening. My cool, geeky, wise, ever-humble dad was
also Bob Moog, Electronic Music Icon—an inspiration to thousands of
people around the world.
The Birth of the Foundation
From this remarkable breadth of support, my family realized that our father
had left a profound and indelible legacy steeped in inspiration, creativity,
innovation, humility, and human interconnectedness—a legacy, we felt, that
must be carried forward. Hence, the Bob Moog Foundation was created.
I began as Volunteer Director of the Bob Moog Foundation in September
2005, and became full-time Executive Director in February 2007.
We were, and in many ways still are, a quintessential startup—highly
motivated to succeed, inspired by technology and the urge to share it,
and continually fighting for the resources to accomplish our mission.
Given that we’re an entirely separate entity from the current Moog Music instrument company (though we do enjoy a friendly
partnership with them), and that my father cared far
more about making circuits sing than about his bottom
line, we’ve faced our share of financial challenges—
and are proud of the work we’ve done in
overcoming them. This progress has been the result
of thousands of hours of dedication, persistence, and
hard work by countless volunteers.
Our mission is a reflection of Bob Moog’s legacy:
To educate and inspire people through the power and
possibilities of electronic music, and through the intersection
of music and science. On the ground, three
important projects are how we realize that mission.
·With our MoogLab
project, we bring
into schools to teach
children the math and physics behind electronic
music and inspire them to create
in their own ways. More about that below.
· Archive Preservation Initiative: Bob
Moog left behind an extensive, compelling,
and historically rich archive that includes
photos, schematics, prototypes, project notes,
articles, correspondence, and audio recordings, all of which we’re preserving.
Currently, we’re restoring and digitally
transferring some of the most
delicate specimens in the archives—
the reel-to-reel tapes—thanks to two
generous grants from the Grammy
Foundation. Our goal is to bring this
unique archive to life through our
website, traveling exhibits, and our
future Moogseum. The Museum of
Making Music in Carlsbad, California
recently hosted an eight-month
exhibit featuring over 250 items from
the archives. It received over 20,000
· The Moogseum is planned to be
both a website and a facility in Asheville where the above two goals converge
in a hands-on, interactive environment. Asheville’s Tourism Product
Development Authority has awarded the Bob Moog Foundation a generous
lead grant for the construction of the facility. The challenging economy
has made raising the remaining needed funds difficult, postponing the opening
of the Moogseum to 2014 or beyond. In the meantime, we continue to
grow the MoogLab and Archive projects so that both will be fully developed
by the time the Moogseum is realized.
With school music and arts programs suffering across the country, and
U.S. science education lagging behind other developed countries, the Bob
Moog Foundation is committed to making an impact immediately with
MoogLab. To date, this has been a pilot program we‘ve brought to area
elementary and middle schools, festivals, and our own public events.
To introduce students to the physics of sound, we follow the trajectory
of electronic music evolution and begin with the Theremin, the very
instrument with which Bob got his start when he was only 14. Bob considered
the Theremin, invented in 1919 by Russian physicist Leon Theremin
(a.k.a. Lev Teremen) the cornerstone of electronic music, and of his own
work specifically. The fact that you play it without touching it makes for a
captivating visual with which to teach kids the principles of oscillation as
a form of sound generation, electromagnetic fields, and circuitry.
To-do list for the Minimoog project, from Bob Moog’s desk notepad, dated 1970.
As part of our lesson, our trained teachers connect the Theremin to
an oscilloscope and the proverbial circuit is formed: Students hear the
sound, watch the waveform, and interact with the instrument to make it
all happen. The expressions we’ve seen on the kids’ faces have shown
priceless “light-bulb moments.” This is MoogLab in action.
We add a layer of sonic experience by connecting the Theremin to
one or more Moogerfoogers, Moog Music’s effects pedals, many of which
are beautiful expansions on early modules designed by the R.A. Moog
company in the mid-1960s. The Moogerfoogers introduce students to
the concept of synthesis—the ability to alter sound waves with the flip of
a switch or the tweak of a knob. With the Low Pass Filter, we use swooping
filter sweeps to teach basic subtractive synthesis; with the Analog
Delay, we use trippy echo effects to go deeper into waveform concepts.
Whether we’re talking about oscillators in a Theremin or filters in a
Moogerfooger, Moog devices provide a unique onramp to subjects ranging
from the relation between mathematical frequency and audible pitch to the difference between digital and analog sound. They also wed these
concepts with fun, real-life examples. Even if students can’t fully grasp
such complex subjects in a single teaching session, the connections forged
in a MoogLab class between math and music, science and sound, prove
to be valuable assets as their education continues.
Synthesizers such as the Minimoog Voyager are possibly our most
powerful tool for teaching the science of sound, but they’re also the most
complex, and therefore better suited to upper grades. While we’ve not yet
brought MoogLab into high schools, our goal is to do so within the next
two years. Bob Moog designed his synths to have logical, intuitive interfaces,
and to be easy to understand for musicians. This also makes them
ideal teaching tools. Many musicians have told me that they taught themselves
synthesis on a Minimoog Model D, and that the experience shaped
their musical lives. We aim to offer that same experience to a wide range
of students in hopes of unleashing their creativity.
The Bob Moog Foundation aims to follow Bob’s ethos of doing things
right the first time. That’s why we’re spending some time developing
MoogLab in the Asheville community—we want to sculpt it into a refined
teaching tool that we can eventually share with teachers on a national
and international scale.
<-- “Not now, Mom. I’ve almost got this tap delay synced with the filter mod.”
The most important thing we can do is to continue to impact lives in the
way that Bob did. MoogLab and the many history lessons hidden in the
archives serve as powerful vehicles, opening minds to the possibilities
that exist at the intersection of music, science, and imagination. Make no
mistake, the Bob Moog Foundation is not about Bob-Moog-as-celebrity.
Rather, it’s about igniting creativity and stoking intelligence in present
and future generations.
To carry out this work, we look for the collaborative spirit in those
who care deeply about electronic music. We seek the support of musicians
who use tools that Bob dedicated his life to developing—as well as
the support of fans who enjoy the vast ocean of music that might not exist
if it weren’t for Bob’s work.
My father was not just a brilliant technician, but also a generous soul.
For that reason, and in spite of his renown, he left behind relatively little
personal wealth. The Bob Moog Foundation is a small non-profit organization
with one full-time employee (me) and a corps of dedicated volunteers.
While we receive some funding from grants and fundraising
events, we’ll always be mainly donor-driven and sincerely appreciate all
sizes, shapes, and flavors of support—see the “dashboard” on page 44 for
different ways you can help.
The Gift of the Driver’s Seat
I’ve been acquainted with Keyboard magazine since I was a kid. Dad, who
could be a bit of a procrastinator, used to write a monthly column called
“Vintage Synthesizers.” [He also authored our instructional “On Synthesizers”
column and myriad one-shot stories, including a renowned article on the synth soundtrack to Francis Ford Coppola’s film Apocalypse Now
in the January 1980 issue. —Ed.]
One day he announced that then-editor Dominic Milano had called and
said the article had to be at Keyboard’s offices across the country the next
morning. Dad spent the day huddled in his workshop, banging out yet
another technically stunning article. I was 15 going on 16 at the time, and
about to get my driver’s license. At the last minute, Dad asked me to drive
him to FedEx, which closed in 30 minutes. We lived 35 minutes from town.
I wondered for a split second how he could even trust me with such a responsibility,
as there was so much riding on it and I was a brand new driver. Then
I realized that if Dad trusted me, I should seize the opportunity.
We made it to FedEx five minutes early. Dad got out and asked me to
wait in the car. He got back in a few minutes later and said, “I think we
can go get your license tomorrow.”
Once again I find myself in the driver’s seat, with even more responsibility.
Foremost is cradling Bob Moog’s legacy with integrity for future
generations to enjoy. This is also a gift for which I’m deeply grateful—an
opportunity to make a difference in a truly meaningful way. Thanks, Dad,
for blazing the path that I, along with countless others, trace with humility
and awe. And thanks for the inspiration.