Described by the press as “alien” and like “a fox let loose in a chicken shack,” the sounds of the Moog synthesizer filled MoMA’s Sculpture Garden during the final event of the 1969 Jazz in the Garden concert series.
[View of the concert performed by Robert Moog and the Moog Synthesizer, part of the Jazz in the Garden series, The Museum of Modern Art, August 28, 1969. Photographer: Peter Moore. Photographic Archive. The Museum of Modern Art Archives, New York]
Robert Moog, 35, who designed the best known of the electronic
musical synthesizers, makes final adjustment on the Moog Synthesizer
prior to a jazz concert at Museum of Modern Art, Aug. 28, 1969, New
York. Two quartets played four Moogs during the hour and a half long
concert in the Museums open air sculpture garden. Some 4,000 persons
attended the concert.
Anthony Stramaglia brought along a Fairlight Computer Musical Instrument (or CMI). Keep in mind that these are very hard to find in as complete condition as the one seen here.
But then it gets better: this is Fairlight CMI serial number 25, formerly owned by the legendary Robert Moog. I will say that again, this was Dr. Robert Moog’s Fairlight CMI.
It sounded amazing – and the sound was so dynamic. The amount of configurations that this machine was capable of was astounding! Throughout the weekend, various classic synth tunes could be heard belted out across the floor, and they sounded even more wonderful in person than on recordings. It was a thing of beauty to behold for both the eyes and the ears. The one that is stuck in my head was a rendition of Subdivisions by Rush
Clara Rockmore (March 9, 1911 – May 10, 1998) was a pioneer in electronic music. Her artistry and technique on the theremin put her in the same league as some of the other legendary women instrumentalists of 20th century — musicians like pianist Dame Myra Hess, the great Polish harpsichordist Wanda Landowska.
From a very early age, Clara was an accomplished young violinist but as it turned out, she eventually had to abandon the instrument because of chronic physical difficulties due to childhood malnutrition and she took up the theremin. Later in her life she said that Leon Theremin saved her “musical sanity” by introducing her to the theremin. She had extremely precise, rapid control of her movements, important in playing an instrument that depends on the performer’s motion and proximity rather than touch. She also had the advantage of working directly with Léon Theremin from the early days of the instrument’s commercial development in the United States.
It is easy to understand why Leon Theremin, the inventor of the instrument that bears his name, was deeply in love with Clara. Apart from being brilliantly talented as a musician and thereminist, she was strikingly beautiful.
Clara Rockmore died in the spring of 1998 leaving a small but important legacy of her recordings which include The Art of Theremin (produced by Robert Moog in 1977) and a stunning, live, 1945 performance of the Concerto for Theremin and Orchestra by the American composer Anis Fuleihan (with the orchestra under the direction of the great Leopold Stokowski). Both these recordings have been reissued on CD.
walter carlos was a young musician and an “early adopter” of the moog synthesizer. as such, his feedback greatly helped robert moog further develop his line of instruments. in 1968, gaining success with his grammy winning album switched-on bach, walter began to live as wendy. by 1972, she’d had sex reassignment surgery and continued working on her own albums as well as scoring a couple of stanley kubrick’s films. today, she’s still making music as well as photographing solar eclipses.