Robert Moog, a physicist and electrical engineer from New York, was a pioneer in developing electronic musical instruments. One of his most famous creations is the Moog synthesizer, which is an analog modular voltage-controlled synthesizer developed in the mid 1960s.
Moog started to establish his synthesizers after meeting Herbert Deutsch in 1963. Over the course of the next year, he developed a modular voltage-controlled subtractive synthesizer. He demonstrated this synthesizer at an audio engineering conference and immediately received an order for the instrument.
However, the instrument did not become popular until the late 1960s. After fruitless efforts to get his synthesizer noticed, it did not really become noticed until Robert Moog set up a booth at the Monterey festival. There it received attention from major acts such as Simon & Garfunkel and The Byrds. Some of the first famous songs to feature the Moog synthesizer were “Reflections” by Diana Ross & the Supremes, “Strange Days” by The Doors, “Cosmic Sounds” by The Zodiac, and “Bookends” by Simon & Garfunkel.
The synthesizer did not reach commercial breakthrough until composer and musician Wendy Carlos introduced the instrument to the general public. Moog and Carlos worked closely together in the late ‘60s to compose a demonstration record for the Moog Company. The album became known as Switched-On Bach and quickly captured the public’s attention. In addition, Carlos received three Grammy awards for the album.
A smaller version of the synthesizer, called the Minimoog, was introduced in the 1970s. This compact version gave musicians greater freedom with the instrument. The synthesizer gained international attention with the release of “Popcorn” by Hot Butter, a song that reached the top of the charts in Australia, the UK, and the US. In 1974, German electronic group Kraftwerk began using several types of synthesizers, including the Minimoog. Even the Beach Boys used the instrument in their album, Love You.
By now, Robert Moog had started his own company to develop electronic instruments, known as Moog Music. Throughout the ‘70s, the company changed ownership several times and was eventually bought out by Norlin. Moog decided to leave his own company in 1977 due to poor marketing and management. After leaving Moog Music, Moog started making instruments with Big Briar, a new company. The company specialized in producing theramins, but later expanded to start producing analog effects pedals.
Robert Moog’s innovative design for electronic instruments has been used in various synthesizers since then, such as the Minimoog Voyager, Moog Taurus Bass Pedals, and the Minimoog Model D. With the influence that electronic music has established over modern music, it is safe to say that Robert Moog was one of the pioneers of modern music and a genius for his time.