News Column

Echoes of Bob Moog...Moog

Oct. 25, 2012

Lauren LaRocca, The Frederick News-Post, Md.


What would music be today without the influence of technology? In nearly every genre, we hear the imprint the digital age has put upon sound, spawning neo-genres of folktronica, ambient Americana, Frederick band Plaeground's brand of electrodelic -- and countless others.

One person we thank for these sounds is the late Bob Moog, inventor of the Moog (rhymes with vogue) synthesizer in the late '60s, which brought electronic music to the masses.

"The progressive rock genre basically came to be because of the keyboard," said Michelle Moog, one of Bob's daughters. "It really grew up around the Moog synthesizer."

Bob's legacy is celebrated each year via Moogfest, a two-day music festival held in Asheville, N.C., and featuring a slew of well-known as well as up-and-coming acts. This year's festival begins today and continues Saturday.


Bob's house was not particularly full of music and instruments as one might think, his daughter will tell you.

"He really didn't listen to that much music," she said. "For the most part, he was working on sound all day. ... He let us explore the musical realm on our own."

It was her mother who played classical music and introduced Michelle and her siblings to artists such as Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Bob's career, on the whole, was not spoken about much while Michelle was growing up. Yes, there were introductions to the who's who of the experimental music scene at various special events, but it wasn't until after her father's death in 2005, after years of her "going down the pop and R&B track," that Michelle really branched out and examined electronica music, discovering acts that were influenced by her father.

"Since his passing, all of us were left to discover Bob Moog," she said.

"I refer to him as Bob because my dad and Bob Moog, to me, are two very different people," she continued. "My dad is the driving force in my life and some geeky cool guy who taught me how to drive and loved the outdoors and baking bread. ... And of course Bob Moog is this international, iconic persona."


Moogfest was originally held in New York City, and Bob attended the first one in 2004, Michelle said, though it was an abbreviated version of what it is today: one evening concert of four to six acts.

This year's fest boasts a lineup of such notable acts as Nas, Primus, Santigold and Orbital.

It made sense to move the fest from the Big Apple down to the mountainous nook and arts mecca that is Asheville, a place Bob called home for the last 25 years of his life.

"There is a natural fit here," said Michelle, who lives in Asheville. "Bob Moog's spirit is very much alive in this community."

During Moogfest, Friday and Saturday, people can play Moog instruments on display at Dr. Bob's Interactive Sonic Experience.

"Volunteers help explain the instruments, and then people are free to explore them," Michelle said. "We educate them."

Michelle usually introduces speakers at panel discussions that take place throughout the fest.

There's a visual art component to the fest each year, too. Top poster artists from across the country will be featured this year, today through Sunday, showing and selling limited-edition signed prints inspired by Bob in the group show "Synth." All proceeds from print sales will go to the Bob Moog Foundation.

New this year, the Bob Moog Foundation will bring a historical exhibit and sale to the fest. David Van Koevering, responsible for bringing the Mini Moog into the world, will bring vintage Moog albums for the exhibit, "to give a historical timeline," Michelle said.


Michelle, executive director of the Bob Moog Foundation, said the mission of the nonprofit is twofold: educational and archival.

Dr. Bob Sound School is a 10-week curriculum that "teaches kids the science behind sound," Michelle said. It's taught in 25 classrooms in Asheville and will expand to about 100 next year, Michelle said, into western North Carolina, and hopefully will grow nationwide thereafter.

They help make synthesizers accessible to musicians, "because it's so easy to access, through the iPhone and iPad," Michelle said, and it's important "for people to know where these sounds originate and how they're made."

The second component of the nonprofit -- archiving -- is also ongoing, with years worth of articles and photos to sort through.

"We are slowly but surely preserving them," Michelle said. "A museum is our eventual goal."

Distributed by MCT Information Services

Source: (c) 2012 The Frederick News-Post (Frederick, Md.)

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