Half a century ago, Robert Moog presented a paper on Voltage-Controlled Electronic Music Modules and kicked off a musical revolution. Moog didn’t invent the synthesizer, but his approach put flexibility and power behind the concept, allowing musicians and composers to experiment and create in new ways. Back in the 1980s, the Musician’s Union in the UK passed a resolution opposing synthesizers, but by the time that conservative French horn and oboe players rallied to the cause, it was too late: technology had advanced, and so, too, had the imaginations of creative sound artists. While the first Moog synthesizers were expensive affairs, available only to the best-funded musicians of the 1960s and early 1970s, simpler keyboards quickly arrived that were easy to understand, affordable and capable of sonic magic that no French horn could match. From the ubiquitous Prodigy to the current Sub 37, Moog has had a lasting presence in studios and on stages around the world.
To mark the occasion and celebrate the Moog legacy, London-based artist and author, Mark Jenkins, organised Moog 50 at St. George’s Church, not far from where the Blitz Club (where many synthesizer masters and fans congregated) used to stand. The unusual setting, which seated attendees in pews before an altar fronted by modular gear, certainly gave the event a reverential feeling. With a masterful performance on the theremin by Lydia Kavina, who demonstrated both classical and modern works on the instrument that gave Moog his start, and a delightful set by Jenkins himself (accompanied by an interpretive dancer and vocalist specialising in medieval choral work), the evening traced Moog’s own history in stages. The climax was a performance by Vile Electrodes, who debuted Moog’s new Sub 37 keyboard and showed off their technical prowess, as well as several new songs.
The Moog sound is easily recognisable, even amongst the reflections of church walls, and each performance coloured in the picture of Robert Moog as a pioneer with a distinctive vision and legacy.