Behind the Nameplate: Robert Arthur “Bob” Moog

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Robert Arthur “Bob” Moog (May 23, 1934 – August 21, 2005) was best known as the inventor of the Moog synthesizer. His innovative electronic design is found in products such as the Minimoog Model D, Minimoog Voyager, Little Phatty, Moog Taurus Bass Pedals, Moog Minitaur, and the Moogerfooger line of effects pedals. Famous songs that employ the use of a Moog synth include “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd, “Strange Days” by The Doors, “Heart of Glass” by Blondie and “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” by The Beatles.

A native of New York City, Bob Moog (rhymes with vogue) attended the Bronx High School of Science in New York, graduating in 1952. In 1954 he and his father started building Theremins and he used the money he earned to pay his way through college. His degrees include a BS in physics from Queens College, New York in 1957, another in electrical engineering from Columbia University, and a Ph.D. in engineering physics from Cornell University (1965). During his lifetime, Bob founded two companies for manufacturing electronic musical instruments: R.A. Moog, Inc. (now Moog Music, Inc.) and Big Briar. He also worked as a consultant and vice president for new product research at Kurzweil Music Systems from 1984 to 1988, helping to develop the Kurzweil K2000. After Bob passed away in 2005 his son Matthew set up the Bob Moog Foundation.

moog “The inspiration to create the foundation may be a bit different from what most people expect,” explains his daughter Michelle Moog-Koussa. “My father didn’t talk about his work with any great frequency when I was growing up. As a result, I knew very little about the details of his career. I knew the big picture, but I don’t think any of us had an idea of the depth or widespread nature of his impact on music.” All of that ended when she and her siblings created a page for Bob on Caringbridge.com when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The page was originally intended as a way to keep in touch with a small group of close friends. But more than 60,000 people logged onto the site and almost 4,000 tributes from all over the world were posted on the day Bob passed away—testaments to the ways in which Bob Moog had either changed or transformed their lives. “Through these tributes, my family experienced a bit of an awakening,” she admits. “We realized that my father’s legacy was such a powerful inspirational force that it deserved to be carried forward to future generations. That was the genesis of the Bob Moog Foundation.”

The mission of the foundation is to ignite creativity at the intersection of music, science, history and innovation. The mission is a reflection of Bob’s legacy itself. “We achieve this mission through two major projects,” says Moog-Koussa. “The first is an educational initiative called Dr. Bob’s SoundSchool (DBSS) through which we teach second grade children the science of sound through the magic of music.” The second Moog Foundation project is the Archive Preservation Initiative, through which they preserve, protect and share the materials found in Bob’s extensive and historic archive.

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