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  • Analog Days: The Invention and Impact of the Moog Synthesizer
  • Charles Menoche
Analog Days: The Invention and Impact of the Moog Synthesizer. By Trevor Pinch and Frank Trocco. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002. [xv, 368 p. ISBN 0-674-00889-8. (pbk.)] Index, bibliography, illustrations, discography, glossary.

In 1954, nineteen-year-old Robert Moog founded a small company to facilitate the manufacturing and selling of Theremins and Theremin kits. As detailed in Analog Days: The Invention and Impact of the Moog Synthesizer by Trevor Pinch and Frank Trocco, this was but a first small step in a journey that would eventually make the name "Moog" perhaps the single-most identifiable "brand name" in synthesizers. The 2002 publication of this book is timed nicely to correspond with the recent flurry of activities leading up to the fiftieth anniversary celebration of the 1954 founding of the R. A. Moog Company. These include the 2002 award of a special Technical Grammy award to Moog, the 2004 release of director Hans Fjellestad's documentary Moog (Brooklyn, NY: Plexigroup, 2005, on DVD), and the 2004 and 2005 Moogfest concerts.

The book joins several others published in the last fifteen years that focus on electro-acoustic music history, and more specifically, electronic music instruments and their developers. These books include Reynold Weidenaar's Magic Music from the Telharmonium (Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1995), Albert Glinsky's Theremin: Ether Music and Espionage (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2000), and Gayle Young's biography of Hugh Le Caine, The Sackbut Blues (Ottawa: National Museum of Science and Technology, 1989). Analog Days will undoubtedly (and deservedly) join these books on the shelves in many public, academic and home libraries, but its approach to the subject matter is quite different from its peers. In addition to dealing with more recent years (mostly between 1960 and 1975), a significant difference is that the authors' primary discipline is the relatively new interdisciplinary field of science and technology studies, rather than music.

The authors describe this area as the study of "sets of practices, discourses, and material artifacts that have evolved over human history and that can take on new forms in different social, cultural, and historical context" (p. 10). The book examines all aspects of early commercial analog synthesizers, their developers and users (musicians/engineers), works created, the public's changing reception of synthesizers, and finally the marketing professionals and sales people. As a result, the book crosses over with, and frequently cites, Paul Théberge's study of music technology in the twentieth century, Any Sound You Can Imagine: Making Music/Consuming Technology (Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press; University Press of New England, 1997).

Although Pinch's early encounters with synthesizers was the EMS VCS3 and later his own home-built modules, a position at Cornell University placed him at Moog's alma mater, just down the road from the original Moog factory in Trumansburg, New York. This provided the impetus to begin research that would lead to this book. Over the course of four years, Pinch and Trocco, who joined the project in 1996, compiled an extensive collection of interviews with many of the engineers, composers, musicians, and sales people involved with early development of voltage-controlled analog synthesizers.

The book draws heavily from these interviews, with almost every page including extensive quotes. Readers learn of the development and marketing of commercial voltage-controlled analog synthesizers as told through an insider's insights into and reflection on the time and events. When describing the first sale of a modular synthesizer to choreographer Alwin Nikolais, the authors quote Moog's reaction: "You know it just happened. It [was like] in these amusement parks where you're sort of going down and you're not quite in control" (pp. 29–31).

Although the Moog synthesizer is the important "character," the book's focus extends well beyond this, tracing the development of commercial analog voltage-controlled synthesizers in the 1960s and [End Page 404] early 1970s. Throughout the book, discussion alternates between what Moog was doing on the East Coast and what his West-Coast counterpart, Donald Buchla was developing concurrently but independently. Early chapters focus on first Moog...


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