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On the Scene at Moogmentum

Geary Yelton

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A celebration of Moog synthesizers, the men who created them, and the musicians who play them.

For three days in mid-August, dozens of synthusiasts gathered in Asheville, North Carolina, to celebrate the grand opening of the Moogseum, a museum dedicated to Bob Moog’s life and accomplishments (see last month’s story). Although the extravaganza wasthree days of peace, love, and music, Moogmentum in no way resembled a rock festival, and none of it took place outdoors. Nonetheless, everyone who attended had a rockin’ good time.

The Moogseum’s ribbon-cutting ceremony attracted a sizable crowd of Moogmentum participants, appreciative locals, and curious tourists. Michelle performing the honors.

The Bob Moog Foundation, with Bob’s daughter Michelle Moog-Koussa serving as its executive director, operates the Moogseum. After years of planning, it first opened its doors on what would have been Bob Moog’s 85th birthday, May 23, 2019. That was considered a soft opening, however, and the foundation already had plans to host a much grander opening in August.

Most of the festivities revolved around three main guests of honor—Herb Deutsch, Patrick Moraz, and Larry Fast—and also featured a concert performance by synthesist Lisa Bella Donna. The opening event was an onstage conversation between Larry and Herb, in which Herb talked about his part in developing the first Moog synthesizer alongside Bob Moog. Soon after that, Larry talked with Patrick about his remarkable career and his longstanding relationship with Bob. Patrick regaled the audience with fascinating stories and his marvelous sense of humor, and then he gave an outstanding performance on piano and synthesizers.

The second day began with Michelle leading a guided tour of the Moogseum, followed by a more intimate conversation between Patrick and Larry for guests who had purchased VIP passes, with another brief performance by Patrick. Next up was the unveiling of the original Moog prototype, on loan from the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit. (Failing to recognize its historical significance, the Smithsonian Institution had refused the gift years earlier.) It was like witnessing a reunion of old friends to see Herb nostalgically gaze upon the history-making synth that had played such a significant role in his life.

The next morning, Lisa Bella Donna conducted a well-attended synthesizer workshop whose emphasis was on effects processing. After lunch, Larry finally got the solo spotlight with a lecture about music’s progression from analog to digital technology, including personal stories describing how his tools and techniques evolved over the years. (I admit to some disappointment that we never saw Larry play.) The day’s featured event was a ribbon-cutting ceremony, with a crowd of observers filling the sidewalk out front. Immediately after, Bob Moog Foundation staff served cups of Moog Filtered Ale, brewed especially for Moogmentum, to almost everyone who entered the Moogseum.

A few hours later, Lisa capped off the night with a memorable performance of progressive electronic music played on an impressive assortment of synths. All in all, everyone agreed that Moogmentum was a smashing success.

Hofstra University Professor Emeritus Herb Deutsch is a composer best known for his collaborations with Bob Moog beginning in 1964. Herb introduced Bob to experimental electronic music, and Bob began building electronic-music modules at Herb’s request. Together, they conjured up the first Moog synthesizer, which for years was Herb’s personal instrument.
Hailing from Switzerland, Patrick Moraz served as keyboardist for Yes and the Moody Blues. He got to know Bob during his time with the trio Refugee, which he formed with two members of Keith Emerson’s band The Nice after Keith left to form Emerson, Lake & Palmer. He also recorded more than 20 solo albums and collaborated with Yes and King Crimson drummer Bill Bruford.
From 1975 until 1987, New Jersey-based synthesist Larry Fast composed and recorded under the name Synergy. For a decade beginning in 1975, he was also the keyboardist for Peter Gabriel, playing on Gabriel’s first six albums and performing as part of his touring band. Additionally, he’s played synthesizers for artists ranging from Foreigner, Nektar, and Kate Bush to Bonnie Tyler, Barbra Streisand, and Hall & Oates.
Attending the opening night events were (from left to right) Dina Pearlman of the Alan R. Pearlman (ARP) Foundation, Vince Pupillo, Sr., of EMEAPP (the Electronic Music Education and Preservation Project), Michelle Moog-Koussa of the Bob Moog Foundation, and Vince Pupillo, Jr., of EMEAPP.
On Moogmentum’s opening night, Larry Fast and Herb Deutsch continued their conversation after most of the audience had gone.
Patrick Moraz discussed his colorful personal history, recounting stories about Bob Moog and Moog synthesizers. He said he wanted a MInimoog as soon as he heard Jan Hammer play one with the Mahavishnu Orchestra.
After playing recordings of Bob explaining the instrument he called the Abominatron, Michelle and Herb unveiled the original Moog synthesizer prototype.
Among the guests who dropped by for the ribbon cutting were Make Noise Music’s Kelly Kelbel and Tony Rolando and Tom Oberheim’s associate Rick Hawker.
Spirits were high after the Moogseum’s ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Lisa Bella Donna wowed the crowd with a well-attended concert that brought Moogmentum to a close.
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