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Synth pioneer Robert Moog dies at 71

Inventor turned current into sound, reshaped modern music
The Associated Press
Updated: 10:43 a.m. ET Aug. 22, 2005

RALEIGH, N.C. - Robert A. Moog, whose self-named synthesizers turned electric currents into sound and opened the musical wave that became electronica, has died. He was 71.

Moog died Sunday at his home in Asheville, according to his company’s Web site. He had suffered from an inoperable brain tumor, detected in April.

A childhood interest in the theremin, one of the first electronic musical instruments, would lead Moog to a create a career and business that tied the name Moog as tightly to synthesizers as the name Les Paul is to electric guitars.

Despite traveling in circles that included jet-setting rockers, he always considered himself a technician.

“I’m an engineer. I see myself as a toolmaker and the musicians are my customers,” he said in 2000. “They use the tools.”

As a Ph.D. student in engineering physics at Cornell University, Moog — rhymes with vogue — in 1964 developed his first voltage-controlled synthesizer modules with composer Herbert Deutsch. By the end of that year, R.A. Moog Co. marketed the first commercial modular synthesizer.

The instrument allowed musicians, first in a studio and later on stage, to generate a range of sounds that could mimic nature or seem otherworldly by flipping a switch, twisting a dial, or sliding a knob. Other synthesizers were already on the market in 1964, but Moog’s stood out for being small, light and versatile.

The arrival of the synthesizer came as just as the Beatles and other musicians started seeking ways to fuse psychedelic-drug experiences with their art. The Beatles used a Moog synthesizer on their 1969 album, “Abbey Road”; a Moog was used to create an eerie sound on the soundtrack to the 1971 film “A Clockwork Orange”.

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