The late Robert Moog's posthumous 78th birthday has been celebrated by the popular search engine Google as a Google Doodle gracing their home page
Robert Moog, celebrated musical pioneer, who would have been 78 today, has been venerated with a Google Doodle. Google has marked the birthday of music pioneer Robert Moog by creating a 'Doodle' in the form of an interactive electronic synthesiser which can be played by clicking on its keys using a cursor.
Although musical synthesisers already existed, Moog's invention transformed pop music during the 1960s by producing and marketing a small keyboard synthesiser that could be used with comparative ease.
Famous bands, such as The Doors and The Beatles utilised the Moog synthesiser, while the Minimoog, a stripped-down version which followed it in the 1970s, became very popular with newer bands.
The New Yorker, who would have turned 78 today, had been encouraged to dabble in electronics from an early age by his father and built his first electronic instrument, a theremin, at the age of 14.
Moog began to develop his synthesizer systems after he met educator and composer Herbert Deutsch at a conference in late 1963. Over the next year, with encouragement from Myron Hoffman of the University of Toronto, Moog and Deutsch developed the first modular voltage-controlled subtractive synthesizer. Through Hoffman, Moog was invited to demonstrate these prototype devices at the Audio Engineering Society convention in October 1964, where composer Alwin Nikolais saw them and immediately placed an order.
Voltage control in analog music synthesizers is similar in principle to how voltage is used in electronic analog computers, in which voltage is a scaled analog of a quantity that is part of the computation. For instance, control voltages can be added or subtracted in a circuit almost identical to an adder in such a computer. Inside a synthesizer VCO, an analog exponential function provides the 1 volt per octave control of an oscillator that basically runs on a volts/kHz basis. Positive voltage polarity raises pitch, and negative lowers it. The result is that, for example, a standard keyboard can have its output scaled to that of a quarter-tone keyboard by changing its output to one-half volt per octave, with no other technical changes.
Using this approach, Moog built a range of signal-generating, signal-modifying and controller modules, each of which could be easily inter-connected to control or modify the functions and outputs of any other. The central component was the voltage-controlled oscillator (VCO), which generated the primary sound signal, capable of producing a variety of waveforms including sawtooth, square and sine waves. The output from the VCO could then be modified and shaped by feeding the signal into other modules such as voltage-controlled amplifiers (VCA), voltage-controlled filters (VCF), envelope generators, and ring modulators. Another customization as part of the Moog Modular Synthesizer is the sequencer, which provided a source of timed step control voltages that were programmed to create repetitive note patterns, without using the keyboard. The inputs and outputs of any module could be cross-linked with patch cords (using tip-sleeve ("mono") ¼-inch plugs) and, together with the module control knobs and switches, could create a nearly infinite variety of sounds and effects.
The Moog synthesizer began to gain wider attention in the music industry after it was demonstrated at the epochal Monterey International Pop Festival in June 1967. Electronic music pioneers Paul Beaver and Bernie Krause had bought one of Moog's first synthesizers in 1966 and had spent a fruitless year trying to interest Hollywood studios in its use for movie soundtracks . In June 1967 they set up a booth at the Monterey festival to demonstrate the Moog, and it attracted the interest of several of the major acts who attended, including The Byrds and Simon & Garfunkel. This quickly built into a steady stream of studio session work in Los Angeles and a recording contract with Warner Brothers.
Moog died in 2005 at the age of 71, after being diagnosed with a brain tumour four months previously. However, the Moog sound has lived on, with musicians such as Fat Boy Slim choosing to continue to use it even in the digital era.