erasing clouds

On DVD: Moog

review by dave heaton

Moog is an appropriate name for this documentary, not merely because it spotlights the analog synthesizer of that name, and the man who invented it and named it after himself, but because the film really dives into Moog the man, providing his view of life. The film, in director Hans Fjellestad's words, is about Bob Moog "as the archetypal American maverick inventor. The mad scientist. The cowboy poet."

"I can feel what's going on inside a piece of electronic equipment," are Moog's words which open the film, as images of electronic circuits pass before our eyes. The film's look often tries to resemble the bright, kooky feeling of a Moog, with vibrant colors and animation. There's scenes from demonstration films about Moog and his work, and also the image and sounds, of many musicians playing the Moog, from Rick Wakeman to Bernie Worrell to Money Mark (who jams with Mix Master Mike in a great scene) to Stereolab. Those scenes go far to demonstrate the varied capabilities of the instrument, while interviews with other key figures of the past like Walter Sear and Gershon Kingsley help to illuminate the history and power of the Moog. But the central figure in the film is Moog himself, whether he's interviewing others or talking directly to the camera, telling his story and thoughts about harsh reactions to synthesizers (the idea that there were 'fake'), about the different ways musicians use them (from Bach to rock and onwards), about sounds ("the quality of a musical sound is determined primarily by how the sound moves from beginning to end"), about how the various machines work, about the connection between machines and nature (inventing and gardening), about what inspired his invention and how it has evolved since then, about the human-machine brain connection.

Moog seems in moments like a mathematician, like a philosopher, like a craftsman, and like a guru, which he definitely is. He's someone who not only created an amazing, complex instrument, but motivated legions of musicians to use it in a myriad of fascinating ways.


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