I wrap up my coverage on NAMM 2010 with a special article, special to me for many reasons. I am a music tech buff or geek as some like to call me. I can’t deny it, bad habit. I am also a history buff; I love to listen to treasured stories. I can’t refute that, and I won’t kick the habit. But most of all, I can’t deny that my love for playing music has enabled me to connect with people … and that leaves me eternally grateful.
1st day at NAMM – – I picked up my badge at the will-call station in the lobby of the Anaheim Convention Center. Had to place the printout which bore my name and Moog Music Inc, into the given plastic holder. Also printed on the badge was the letter “A” in white which sat in the middle of a black square designed in the lower right-hand corner. “A” – – stood for “artist”.
Why am I telling you all this? That’s because of the strange sensation that washed over me as I realised all curious by-starers would recognise me as a Moog artist … and it made me want to get down on my knees.
I visited family when I caught up with the folks at Moogmusic. That’s how I consider them; family.
The name Moog (pronounced like “vogue”) is known for technology that has made music history. The home-grown company has stayed true to its roots by continuing to come up with fantastical products while keeping the legacy of its founder alive. Robert Moog’s inventions left an indelible mark in the sound palette of the world (read footnote) and thanks to their strong following, no product stays long as a number on the production line.
R. A. Moog was the company under which 19 year-old Robert Moog (1953) manufactured theremin kits and his first foray into the business of making musical instruments. Despite a name change to Moog Music in the early 1970’s during which the Minimoog made its entrance into the world of analog synthesizers, the company was fraught with ownership problems and the founder had no choice but to leave. Bob, as he is affectionately known, remained true to his calling and Big Briar was formed in 1977/1978, building the Etherwave theremins that are now so fondly associated with him.
I am the proud owner of one of these as well as the EPro. Friends of Xenovibes know I play the theremin with my volume antenna inverted; the adjustment made for me by Bob himself.
Suffice to say, Bob reacquired the rights to operate under the name Moog Music in 2002, and thanks to him and his team of engineers, the rest is musical history.
A quick video perspective – – Here is Keith Emerson, notorious for his stage antics, and probably the first to take a Moog modular synth on tour, patch cords and all, in ELP’s Pictures At An Exhibition. Then we have Rick Wakeman on the Minimoog in The Six Wives of Henry VIII.
A number of history making electronic music instruments were born from the minds of genius inventors during the late ‘60s/early ‘70s; also known as the progressive rock period. ProgRock evolved in Britain and was analogous with the analog synth (no pun intended.) The Minimoog was a mainstay with this community, and when the ‘80s made its entrance, quickly became a pet of the New Wave movement as well. That is a whole other story I will leave to another day.
Back at the show floor in the Anaheim Convention Center, Amos Gaynes, whom I’ve had the pleasure of working with; he fixed my EPro when it was damaged from a fall, prepared himself to walk me through the Taurus 3 bass pedal. I whip out my vidcam. The video has Amos more than aptly describe the Taurus 3 as a direct descendant of the Taurus 1 but with extra features. So I won’t steal his limelight except to give you a brief history of the Taurus bass pedal.
In the beginning there was the Taurus 1. Manufactured between 1976 and 1981, it was a 13-note organ-style pedal board. It had a five-octave range, three preset sounds (Tuba, Bass, and Taurus) and one user-programmable “patch” (sound), all controllable using foot switches. Its timely production, like the Minimoog’s was embraced by the ProgRock community whose artistic license demanded a certain je ne sais quoi (sonic and technical appeal) to their music. The Taurus 2 (1981 to 1983) had additional pedals, pitch bend and mod wheels.
At this point in my history lesson, I must mention the Moog family reunion aka the Endorsed Artist Reception, which took place in Suite 320 of the Marriott Hotel. Security had to be called in because there were just too many people.
The usual suspects turned up to celebrate Bob’s legacy at the booth, and at the reception with Michelle Moog-Koussa, Moog Foundation’s Executive Director and Bob’s daughter. The suspects included Anna and Nick Montoya of Volts per Octaves, Erik Norlander, John Payne (Asia with JP), Dean Parks (Steely Dan etc), Kim Manning (P-Funk), Aux 88, Ric’Key (Madonna), Orisha Pelzer, Jae Deal, Asher Fulero, Saul Zonana, James and Elizabeth Lewin (Synthtopia), David Rosenthal (Billy Joel), Alex Al (Jacksons), Herb Deutsch, Don Buchla, Stanley Clarke, Herbie Hancock and more. A Who’s Who list of photos can be found on the Moogmusic site.
That afternoon, and just before we headed over to the reception, Tom Brislin and I got on stage at the Moog booth to do a little jam. Tom on the Voyager, the Little Phatty and the Taurus 3 bass pedal, and me on my personal Etherwave with another Little Phatty, running my usual laptop rig. Linda Lafferty, Moog Music Sales Manager, tells me I was the only thereminist there. Thanks to Nick Montoya and Tristen Morin for getting us up and running amidst all the wiry chaos. (A little trivia; Tom and I played with our respective groups, Spiraling and Xenovibes at MoogFest07.)
But before I leave you with Amos and the mighty Taurus 3 bass pedal, I am told there are only a thousand units built. If you’re hankering after one, you had better pick up your phone and call one of these Moog distributors before they’re all bought up. I hope to have one for moi to test drive very soon!
The development of the Minimoog as a contradiction to the pompous and unwieldy modular monoliths was followed closely by that of EMS’s VCS3 from across the Atlantic ocean. Electronic Music Studios (EMS London) was trio Peter Zinovieff, David Cockerell and Tristram Cary.
Incidentally, Tristram Cary, composer and pioneer of music concrete, who happened to be my electronic music lecturer at the Elder Conservatorium graciously parked his equipment from EMS in a studio there when he moved from the UK to Australia. An example of how the VCS3 can be used is heard on The Who’s Won’t Get Fooled Again.
Not to be outdone by either party, the Aussies came out with the Fairlight CMI. Here is Herbie Hancock and Quincy Jones doing the Fairlight. I had the pleasure of using one in Melbourne Australia, while working on a short film score. A wind player who wasn’t quite cutting it had to be replaced by the Fairlight.
Video Clip : Taurus 3
Photos & videos (c) 2010 Shueh-li Ong (unless specified, all articles written by Shueh-li Ong bear the photography, videography and digital work of its author.