Bob Moog Lives

October 1, 2010
share

MichelleMoogBy 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.

Tipbook_10Bob 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

0Kid_w_ThereminFrom 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 Student Outreach project, we bring Moog instruments 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 visitors.

 

 

moogseum_concept_1· 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.

MoogLab Unleashed

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.

Moog_NotebookTo-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.

Make Waves

Kid_w_Moogs<-- “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.

Show Comments

These are my comments.

Reader Poll

Are any of your gigging synths analog?




See results without voting »