Understanding Bob Moog’s Legacy with Michelle Moog-Koussa

Bob Moog with modular synthesizer

A Personal essay by Michelle Moog-Koussa about her late father’s life, work and lasting impact on the world of synthesizers

At times, it’s still difficult for me to fathom that my father was Bob Moog. For most of my life, the 37 years before he passed away, he was just Dad. Well, maybe “just” is selling him short a bit. My father was a complex man, a study in juxtaposed spectrums: serious yet humorous (mostly serious), introverted yet he loved good company, consumed with his work yet completely present when he was with you, nerdy yet cool, accessible, but with a rare, wise presence.

[RELATED: filmmaker Jason Amm (Electronic VoyagerI Dream of Wires) reflects on what he’s learned about Bob Moog, the man.]

When he passed away in 2005 after a brief fight with a relentless brain tumor, I was introduced to Bob Moog. Thousands of people came forward at that time with testimonies about how his instruments had inspired them, leaving their lives transformed. That was the turning point for me, and for the past 11 years I have been immersed in his legacy.

Bob Moog & Michelle Moog-Koussa

Bob Moog & Michelle Moog-Koussa

In 1964, Bob Moog invented the Moog modular synthesizer. Not only did this instrument facilitate the exploration of a sonic universe previously unchartered, but it did so in a way that was accessible and democratic via its keyboard controller. The Minimoog followed in 1970, and its powerful, elegant interface and full, organic sound set the standard for nearly every synthesizer that followed. It defined the vocabulary by which synthesis is now understood.

Over 50 years later and following quantum leaps in technological developments, Bob Moog’s original designs are heralded, sought-after, and even reproduced. His dedication to sonic integrity, superior technical design, and high-level craftsmanship helped define what a musical instrument should be. As a result, his influence on the world of music is broad and deep.

He revolutionized the way we think about sound and encouraged us to think creatively about how we shape the world around us.

But Bob’s legacy is not limited to instrument design itself. He not only set the bar for synthesizer designers everywhere, he set an example for what it means to be a human being. He categorically refused to subscribe to the notion of celebrity lest it was too exclusive. He denied notions based on superiority, instead attempting to find an equilibrium, accepting people based on their integrity, thoughtful consideration, and kindness rather than their status, education, or esteemed professional position. This was particularly evident in his later years when he gave himself the title of ‘Grand Poobah’ when his fledgling company Big Briar began ramping up its product line of Theremins. Later, when Big Briar morphed into Moog Music, he gave himself a promotion to ‘Chief Technical Kahuna,’ denying the sense of hierarchy normally reserved for titled CEO/Presidents.

Michelle Moog-Koussa

Michelle Moog-Koussa with a Moog Voyager

It was this combination of technical brilliance, creative warmth, and humility that marked Bob’s career and cultivated a devoted following that has lasted for decades. Through the Bob Moog Foundation, we carry this legacy forward by encouraging creative thinking at the intersection of science, music, and innovation. We teach children about the science of sound through our hallmark education program, Dr. Bob’s SoundSchool, and we inspire adults through the remarkable history contained in the Bob Moog Foundation Archives.

While those two projects remain our focus, we have become increasingly driven to help the public understand Bob Moog’s true life path, beyond that of his iconic status. We recently embarked on the production of a documentary, Electronic Voyager, which will explore Bob’s sonic journey through conversations with those who worked with him and knew him best. By revealing the man behind the myth, we aim to relate a human story of perseverance, adversity, commitment, dedication, accomplishment, humility, integrity, and inspiration. We will pull back the curtain and share the man that I grew up with, the man who has inspired me to carry forth his legacy not based on his successes, but rather based on the sheer human fortitude that was required to innovate the sonic realm. I hope you’ll join me.

Electronic Voyager film poster

Electronic Voyager film poster

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michelle Moog-Koussa is the daughter of Bob Moog, and the Executive Director of the Bob Moog Foundation.

What do you think of this special guest article? Let us know in the comments below or drop a line on the Performer Magazine Facebook page or on Twitter @Performermag. And read more from the special Synth Issue of Performer Magazine

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