The Bob Moog Foundation Preserves Electronic Music History Through Bob’s Archives
Marc Doty is a songwriter, composer, and synthesist from Washington State. His obsession with Moog and other vintage analog synthesizers led to him the creation of a synthesizer demonstration YouTube channel, Automatic Gainsay, which now has nearly 4 million views. His video work as well as his passion for the work of Robert Moog, synthesizers, and the history of electronic music has resulted in the Bob Moog Foundation bringing him on as Artist in Residence for one month this summer. Marc will be using his visual and videographical skills to aid the Bob Moog Foundation in various projects including developing materials for the MoogLab curriculum. You can see more of his synth education work at http://www.youtube.com/automaticgainsay.
If you’re like me (and you probably are), there was a time in your life (or is a time in your life) where you have looked at a piece of music technology and said, “I wish I had that.” If you’re like me, you’ve looked at a Moog synthesizer and said “I wish I had that.” And lastly (and most importantly), if you’re like me, you’ve looked at the history of electronic music and said “I wish I could experience some of that.”
A week ago, I was asked to help at the Bob Moog Foundation’s archive facility. There was a new donation coming in, and we needed to assemble some shelves. We were using some donated shelves, and these shelves were of the variety which depends on the little plastic sleeves which hold the shelf in place. As most of you know, these sleeves are made from a sort of plastic which is not entirely stable in our universe, and they are quite likely to wink out of existence at any given moment when not holding up a shelf. As such, most of them were missing for the shelves we were assembling. Because of the time delay the acquisition of more sleeves would generate, most everyone parted ways temporarily. This left me standing in the Bob Moog Archives. Alone. For at least an hour.
The phrase that kept playing in my head was “kid in a candy store.” But it was not that. It was more like a kid in a candy world in a world well, of pure imagination. Yeah, that’s right. Let Gene Wilder sing that song in your head for a bit, and listen to the lyrics. They all apply.
My blog about the Bob Moog Foundation document archives described them as living history but they are only half of the living history. The other half was in this facility, where all of the devices are. This is where the physical work of Bob Moog resides. I found myself standing surrounded by the technology Bob created, and had nothing to do for the next hour but experience it.
I looked around in slack-jawed amazement. What did I see? Let me tell you:
David Borden’s Moog modular synthesizer. Keyboard, ribbon controller, everything. Some of you might be surprised to know this, but this is the first Moog modular I’ve ever seen in person, or ever touched.
Not one, but TWO RCA theremins. One is disassembled, but all of the parts are there. Yeah, that’s right the rarest and most sought-after theremin in history, and the Foundation possesses two.
A gizmotron with correspondence about its testing.
A Synton vocoder.
A number of Moog modules in various forms.
The speakers used at the 1969 MOMA “Jazz in the Garden” performance, the first live performance of four Moog modular synthesizers.
A Moog LAB series amp, serial number one
Boxes of prototype Moogerfoogers, hand wired by Bob.
Tons of original audio, including original Wendy Carlos, Isao Tomita, Roger Powell, and Beaver and Krause recordings.
Tons of theremins of various types.
Crumar Spirit No. 1. Yep, that’s right, the very first one.
The last Minimoog ever made, serial number 13, 269.
Tons more documents and correspondence which literally portray the history of electronic music. And that is no exaggeration. While many of you probably only think of Bob in the context of the Moog synthesizers he produced, you should know that he was involved with a huge amount of collaboration with a number of important composers, musicians, and technologists in regard to electronic music.
Several reel to reel recorders, including some designed or altered by Bob.
An Oberheim Xpander and a Rhodes Chroma Expander.
A slew of vintage antique oscillators.
An Edison cylinder player.
And more, and more, and more.
I ran from wonder to wonder just like those awful children did at the Wonka factory, but unlike them, I was in silent adoration and awe. Not only are all of these things incredibly interesting, they’re all incredibly important. They portray the great work of a talented man, and the history that sprung up around him pursuing his interests.
So, okay if I were you reading this, I’d be thinking “I wish I could see and experience all of that stuff.”
Well, guess what? You can experience it. You have the opportunity to experience all of this incredible history, all of these interesting devices, and all of the musical instruments. The plan is for everyone to benefit from this incredible legacy- in the form of the Moogseum. The only thing between you and this experience you covet (or should covet) is funding.
The Bob Moog Foundation needs support to make the Moogseum a reality. It’s no easy task to fund a museum, but once that happens, you will have the ability to do what I did in the archives. Yeah, that’s right while you were hating on me for being able to see all of that stuff, you didn’t know that you can see it too. Awesome, isn’t it?
If you want to have that experience, the best way for you to do it is to help us raise the money through volunteering or donating. Then everyone benefits and the world gets to see the actual history of the man, his legacy, his collaborators and the broader legacy of electronic music, we love.
If you’re like me, you can’t wait one more minute for that. Consider supporting the Foundation’s important effort to preserve the history which is so important to our understanding and culture.
You can get your own cool piece of Moog history! Sign up for the Bob Moog Foundation’s eNewsletter and get a free download of a rare document and rarely seen photos from the archives.