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June 30, 2012

Music to Moog by

I’m all alone in a house in Detroit, with only an Austin Jackson Bobblehead to keep me company. It’s too humid for his head to bobble. I’ll give it a tap.

When you are a person whose day is made by getting a pair of cuff-links in the mail, or when your baseball team wins, days aren’t made very often. Especially in Detroit.

Since my first line, the temperature has gone from 90.1 to 90.0.

And the heat has come. Michigan is a place for all seasons.

I accept the 90 degree midnights, and -10 degree February suns.

Since it’s old of me to complain about the weather, I figured now is a good time to tell you about some of my favorite music, or music that is famous to me, right now.

Due to my recent infatuation with the history of the Moog synthesizer, I’ve been rehashing the pioneers in electronic music. For those of you unfamiliar, the Moog synthesizer is an analog synth invented by physicist Robert Moog during the 60s and 70s. Moog’s popularization of the analog synthesizer helped pave the way for the introduction of electronically generated tonalities in popular music, worldwide. Whenever you hear a synth, in any song, in any genre, Robert Moog’s genius is somewhere in the background.

One of the earliest pieces of Moog music, and electronic music in general, is Gershon Kinsgley’s “Pop Corn.” While the song does indeed resemble popcorn with its percussive elements, there is something incredibly dark about this poppy little song. It’s remarkably reflective.

 

Along these same lines, I have dusted off an important Kraftwerk record. This extended movement includes several variously tempered movements, all based on different Moog approaches. This piece really shows the versatility of analog synthesizer – its ability to be percussive, melodic and sweeping all at the same time. Kraftwerk really gambled with their reliance on the synth, but it paid off. Many of the textures and melodies in this 23 minute piece are recognizable across the planet.

 

It’d be unfair if I suddenly changed modes, so here’s a modern Moog masterpiece to round things out. When I heard there would be a Tron sequel, I did like most folks did and put my face in my hands. Like many, I thought: another great idea is about to be ruined. But, I’ll be honest, this film was mildly entertaining on a few levels. First) Jeff Bridges. Second) 2010 visual effects allowed for greater realization of the 1982 Disney classic. Third) Daft Punk scored it, brilliantly.

Orchestral arrangements have their place in any great film score, and electronic staples Daft Punk recognized this. Their score blends analog synth, heavy drum sequences and string arrangements into a very well-fitting soundtrack for TRON: Legacy. Oh, and what great film score doesn’t feature massive horns?

This youtube version doesn’t do it justice, nor does it encompass the dynamic of this score. You’re better off listening to entire record on a service like Spotify or iTunes. But here’s a taste.

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