The First Moog Synthesizer
Continued Excerpt from:
1965 - 1975
an article appearing in NAHO, Fall 1981 / New York State Museum / The State Education Department
Robert Moog and I had met at the 1963 New York State School Music Association Convention at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester. Moog and his wife Shirleigh were living in a Trumansburg farmhouse. She taught school while Robert began work on his doctorate in engineering at Cornell University. During this time, he was constantly exploring ways of combining his love of music with his skills in electronics. In addition, Moog was supplementing their income by building and selling theremins in kit form. Invented in 1921 by Leon Theremin, a Russian physicist, this electronic musical instrument is identified by its strange and plaintive tones and by the fact that it is never touched by the player, who waves his or her hands in front or alongside it to change pitch and loudness. Selling theremin kits was hardly a booming business since few people knew about theremins, and even fewer clamored to buy or build one. Nevertheless, Moog found an outlet for his kits through Walter Sear, a New York City composer and tuba-designer. He suggested that Moog attend the convention where we met. We discussed the theremin briefly, and at much longer length we spoke of other musical instruments, some already existing and others only imagined.

Robert Moog returned to Trumansburg and along with other activities, continued to think about electronic musical instruments. In January 1964, he attended a concert in Greenwich Village, which he credits with influencing the development of the Moog. The concert was held at Jason Seley's studio. Now a professor of Fine Arts at Cornell University, Seley is an artist who is noted for transforming automobile bumpers into sculpture. An example of his work, Equestrian Figure, is exhibited at the Empire State Plaza in Albany. The concert featured electronic music accompanied by a small ensemble of musicians including a percussionist who played with sticks and mallets upon a Seley sculpture. Most of the compositions were quite unusual for 1964. Probably the first complete, evening-long program of avant garde electronic music that Moog had heard, this concert provided a focal point for his well thought out ideas. The requirements for an actual instrument began to crystallize very quickly thereafter.

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