Pronounced M-Oh-G, not Moo-g, refers to the analogue synthesiser designed by Robert Moog in the mid-1960s. Many versions and updates have followed since and the name is no iconic that it is also used to refer to any old analogue music synthesisers. Moog became interested in developing these systems while completing a PhD in Engineering Physics.
The development and creation of the Moog synthesiser was sparked by the invention of the transistor which allowed smaller electronic systems to be built. These smaller systems were both cheaper and more reliable than the earlier vacuum tube systems. After a relatively slow start, the Moog synthesiser was demoed at the Monterey International Pop Festival in 1967 where it received interest and appreciation from some of the major acts including the Byrds and Simon & Garfunkel.
Wendy Carlos brought the first real commercial acclaim to the synthesiser with her Switched-On Bach album which went on to become certified Platinum and win awards for Best Classical Album and Best Engineered Classical Recording among others. Stanley Kubrick would go on to feature some of Carlos’s music in his cult classic A Clockwork Orange which also featured other classical Moog pieces by Beethoven and Rossini.
The Moog synthesisers were also a boon to recording studio musicians and composers. These artists were accustomed to recording on magnetic tape which would take many, many hours and was a lot of work. Even though these systems were small relative to their predecessors they were still quite large – coming in at a few cubic meters once assembled. The invention of microchips at a later stage would allow the size of the synthesisers to reduce drastically.
A voltage-controlled oscillator created the primary sound signal and the sequencer provided for timed step control voltages that could be programmed to create note patterns without using the keyboard. A number of Moog products can still be purchased, such as Moogerfoogers, Taurus 3 bass pedals and Minimoog Voyagers. Last year the Moog One was introduced which was reminiscent of the earlier synthesisers.