Today, on Bob Moog's birthday, we take a look back at the long relationship between Bob and Electronic Musician, as seen through the eyes of his daughter, Michelle Moog-Koussa. This article was originally published in May 2010, for our special 25th anniversary issue.
Congratulations to EM on its 25th anniversary. Longevity of that kind merits deep respect, especially in the current publishing environment. During the past four years, I have also been immersed in a legacy based on longevity—Bob Moog's legacy—one that is inextricably intertwined with electronic music and electronic musicians. Most of you are familiar with Bob''s groundbreaking achievements, which revolutionized the way we make and hear music. You may be less familiar with some of the details of his 51-year career.
At the time that EM came into being in 1975, electronic music may have been in its toddler stages, but Bob had already been coaxing sound from electricity for more than 20 years. At age 14, he began building Theremins with his father. Five years later, he wrote his first article, titled “The Theremin,” which was published in the January 1954 issue of Radio and Television News. A demand for Theremin parts and kits followed, and R.A. Moog was founded in the basement of Bob's parents' house. He was 19 years old.
The years between 1954 and 1975 were incredible years of innovation, discovery, collaboration, and achievement for Bob—the development of several models of Theremins, the invention of the modular Moog synthesizer, and the creation of the Minimoog. Brilliant musicians around the world pioneered the use of these instruments; an explosion of Moog music followed.
Less known is what I could call the grit of the Moog Legacy: Bob's struggle to remain financially viable; his constant challenge to create innovative, custom instruments for musicians with pressing deadlines; his fight to gain acceptance for the synthesizer as an instrument and not as a cold-hearted machine that was going to put musicians out of work; his near brush with bankruptcy in 1970; and his disdain for the venture capitalist who bought his business that same year, quickly changed the name, and summarily edged Bob off the engineering floor to a small office where he was designing esoteric products. He left the company a few years later and subsequently gave up the right to use his own name (which he got back 24 years later).
This was about the time of the genesis of EM's predecessor, Polyphony. Polyphony morphed into Electronic Musician and became a leading source for the musicians around the world who were navigating a wonderful wealth of new technologies. During the next 25 years, EM would explore the ever-evolving industry that Bob helped create. Despite its own transitions and challenges, EM has remained a steadfast presence to which many musicians owe their education and understanding of the tools they use.
When EM was founded, Bob was already a luminary in the industry. Little did most people realize what tumultuous times were behind him or ahead of him; this is to his credit. One of the remarkable things about him was that his dedication, passion, focus, and persistence constantly elevated him above the trials and tribulations of his work.
Through all of this, Bob Moog and his instruments touched, and in some cases even transformed thousands of lives. After he passed away in 2005, we created the Bob Moog Foundation to carry this legacy forward by educating and inspiring children and adults through the intersection of music and science. We are working to bring electronic musical instruments into schools to teach children about the physics of sound through music and to preserve Bob's extensive historical archives. These projects will converge into our hallmark Moogseum project to be created in the next five years. You can find out more about our cause and donate to help our projects become reality at moogfoundation.org.
Without Bob Moog's persistence, our foundation would not be a reality. Nor would many of his projects. We honor his longevity and that of the magazine that features the field to which he was so dedicated.
Michelle Moog-Koussa is Bob Moog's daughter and the executive director of the Bob Moog Foundation.