If the word "Moog" conjures visions of a long-haired Keith Emerson noodling endlessly on a synthesizer keyboard attached to a what looks like a telephone switchboard, this short documentary might teach you a thing or two about the electronic instrument that revolutionized the sound of modern music. First, "moog" rhymes with "rogue." Secondly, it's the last name of the instrument's visionary creator, Robert Moog, who introduced his first synthesizer in 1964. Greeted with suspicion and even outright hostility by traditionalists who suspected Moog of engineering the end of music as they knew it, the instrument found favor first among music houses specializing in TV and commercial soundtracks, then experimental musicians looking for strange new sounds. The original Moog models, however, were large, handmade and prohibitively expensive, and it wasn't until the smaller, cheaper Minimoog was introduced a few years later that the synthesizer sound exploded. Interviewed at his bucolic North Carolina home by California-based filmmaker Hans Fjellestad, the now 70-year-old Moog, a former Cornell University graduate student in physics, recounts his entree into the world of electronic music, a process he describes as "slipping backwards on a banana peel" — it was that easy. Moog met electronic-music pioneer Herb Deutsch in 1963; at the time Deutsch was making music with the eerie and unearthly sounding theremin, an electronic instrument Moog happened to be building and selling. One thing led to another and soon Moog had developed a console that could make musical sounds out of modulated waveforms. The film gets off to a weak start, with the affable but technical-minded Moog walking viewers through the guts of his machine — the circuits, the connectors, the tuning adjusters — and the discourse never really shakes loose of electro-geek speak. The meeting between Moog and New York City "illbient" master DJ Spooky is particularly eyeball-glazing, and Moog and Deutsch's fond memories of voltage-control oscillators just don't translate. Even at his most obtuse, however, Moog's deep, almost spiritual connection to his creation is evident — he compares his ability to visualize circuitry to a violin-maker's feel for fine wood — and his poignant discussion of man's organic relationship to the machines he creates is the film's most interesting section. That and the music, which ranges from the space-age bachelor-pad sounds of Stereolab and the Mooged-out hip-hop of Money Mark to the efforts of Funkadelic keyboard player Bernie Worrell and, yes, Keith Emerson.
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- Released: 2004
- Rating: NR
- Review: If the word "Moog" conjures visions of a long-haired Keith Emerson noodling endlessly on a synthesizer keyboard attached to a what looks like a telephone switchboard, this short documentary might teach you a thing or two about the electronic instrument tha… (more)