In the mid-1960s, electric music pioneer Robert Moog created modular synthesizers using transistor technologies. His early synths featured modules that generate and modify the pitch, timbre, and volume of sounds when connected, or “patched” by cables. This allowed for unprecedented control of sonic parameters but made it difficult to replicate the same sound twice. Moog’s inventions came to the attention of the rock world when they were demonstrated at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. The following year, Wendy Carlos’s album Switched-On Bach became the first chart-topping hit utilizing a Moog synthesizer. The instrument has its performance debut at a 1969 concert in the Sculpture Garden at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC, where Moog introduced a quartet of synthesizers built specifically for live events.
Inspired by Wendy Carlos, Keith Emerson of the then-new band Emerson, Lake and Palmer sought out one of the synthesizers that Robert Moog had built for the 1969 concert at MoMA. The band’s 1970 hit single, Lucky Man,” with an expansive Moog solo by Emerson, helped to establish the synthesizer as a lead instrument in popular music. Emerson collaborated with Moog to expand the synthesizer and optimize it for live performance, adding additional components and preset modules that recall sounds.
Photographed as Part of Play It Loud: Instruments of Rock and Roll, on Exhibit at The Metropolitan Museum Art in NYC Through October 1st, 2019.