The Early Years Of The Moog Synthesizer

2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the first modular voltage-controlled synthesizer, an instrument that forever changed the course of modern music.  Today, on May 23rd, Moog Music celebrates what would have been the 80th birthday of this unique instrument’s inventor, Dr. Robert Moog, by transforming our newly renovated space at 170 Broadway Street into a free public gallery and photo exhibit.
Photos of the early years of the Moog synthesizer’s inception [1964 – 1970] will give a view into one of the music industry’s most important innovations and the man that pioneered it. The free exhibition will run daily from 4:00 – 6:00PM [M – F]. The exhibit will close on June 23, 2014.


It began quietly, in 1964, when Bob Moog designed a new electronic instrument to composer Herb Deutsch's request. Herb wanted something to create complex and experimental sounds, tones not easily found from other instruments or with studio trickery. What Bob designed was not wholly new, it sprung from a powerful new combination of existing ideas. The concepts, when combined with some elegant design choices, made a very powerful and revolutionary new system. The new ideas found in the Moog synthesizer took several years to catch on, and it is likely even the first users had little idea what range the new instrument could truly offer.

In these first few years, the typical Moog synthesizer customer was an experimental musician. These were the cutting-edge composers wanted sounds beyond the limited scope of organs and pianos; they wanted sounds literally never heard before. The Moog offered seemingly infinite combinations of tones, compared to earlier instruments. Few of these artists were concerned with commercial appeal, and they appreciated the Moog design for what it offered; thousands of new sounds, easily created. While the cost of a Moog system was a fraction of what earlier synthesizers had cost, they were still produced in only limited quantities, as usually only Universities could afford them. This explains the rarity and appeal of the few early Moog synthesizers that still exist, most of them selling today for tens of thousands per system.


In 1964, the idea of using modules to create an instrument was new. Modules gave the option to choose a unique set when designing one's instrument, and the instrument could grow over the years when new modules were added. Each module had a function, but many could be used in alternate ways (or even misused to create even more options). Some modules were a direct result of requests of challenges presented by Moog's musician friends. As a result, many of the Moog modules became valuable tools, nearly perfect devices for their function and now-legendary in status.

To most musicians, the original Moog modular synthesizers have never been surpassed; they are the traditional benchmark for analog synthesis. These synthesizers are icons - visually, sonically, and historically. Typically, electronic instruments are considered "obsolete" after just a few years, but Moog modular synthesizers hold their elite status for good reason; they defined elegant design, great quality, and incredible sound.


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