Moog

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A man who genuinely revolutionized late-20th Century music gets his due with Moog, writer-director Hans Fjellestad's absorbing documentary about Robert Moog, inventor of the synthesizer that bears his name. In his seventies when this 2004 film was made, Moog began working with electronic music in the late 1940s, when he designed and built theremins (the source of the wavy sci-fi sound heard on the Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations"). But it was the development of the Moog synthesizer, an analog instrument with electronic components, that put him on the map. Unsurprisingly, it was initially dismissed as a soulless novelty, a notion not helped by its use in silly commercial jingles; Moog himself was regarded as nothing less than a dangerous anarchist out to destroy music as we know it. That all changed when he added a keyboard to his machine and musicians of all stripes gradually began using it for more serious ends. Moog credits Walter (now Wendy) Carlos' Switched-On Bach as the first important milestone, and the list of major artists who have used it since then includes the Beatles (on Abbey Road), Stevie Wonder (a vital early proponent who for some reason goes completely unmentioned here), Keith Emerson of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, and Rick Wakeman of Yes. The latter two perform briefly in the film, as do many others (P-Funk's Bernie Worrell, Sun Ra, Charlie Clouser of Nine Inch Nails), but Moog is the star here. Indeed, it's hard not to believe this genial, self-effacing man when he talks of the "spiritual connection" between his invention and the people who play it. --Sam Graham.


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