Transistor Mystics

Until Bob Moog, the best treatment a set of black-and-white piano keys got in rock N roll probably came from “96 Tears.” But after Moog—a New Yorker who got started engineering theremins as a teenager—pop and rock (and emerging genres such as techno, electronica, etc.) had an entirely new vocabulary limited only by how diligently they could stand to fiddle with a set of knobs.

In the 2004 documentary Moog, released just a year before Moog passed away, the man who lent his sound to such artists as Devo, the Doors and Brian Eno is happily in touch with the cosmic moments in music and riffing on the magic of analog synthesizers—something dismissed by The New York Times, but gospel to techies who knock together tone generators in their garages in the same wild way their fathers might have messed with hot rods or electric guitars. Every instrument comes with language and accent completely its own—and if that weren't true, music would sound the same on a mandolin as it does on a Mosrite. But it doesn't (see: “Miserlou”): Moog's invention proved that point and more, making him the most recognizable of a pack of transistor mystics (like Don Buchla, who put touch-sensitive plates on his early synthesizers, or Daphne Oram, whose Oramics system used drawings on film strips to generate tones) whose inventions inverted Clarke's law: any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology.

“I know for a fact,” says Moog in the film, “that musicians make contact with this board.” And while the board in question was circuit and not Ouija, the documentary evidence proves him right regardless. Director Hans Fjellestad will make a special personal appearance including a Moog-based performance to augment his film.

Moog at Open, 144 Linden Ave., Long Beach, (562) 499-OPEN. Fri., 8 p.m. $5.

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