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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

The ultimate meaning of life is to embrace that which compels you to act in spite of fear.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Moog and other matters

I should start off by saying that the nice people in my last post's photo are not officially connected to the CBC or the CMG in any way. You likely surmised this, but I thought I'd mention it just to be on the safe side.

Okay, it's time to talk Moog.

Yes, Moog.

I'm referring to Robert Moog, the engineer and synthesizer guy. I'm sure many of you, especially those of you in radio, know about this chap. He passed away last month at the age of 71. Today I had some time on my hands, so decided to read a bit about him. Interesting stuff.

After building his first theremin at age 14, Moog was hooked on sound-making machines. The theremin, named after Russian inventor Leon Theremin, was used to make that weeooweeoo sound in The Day the Earth Stood Still, not to mention some other sci-fi movies and shows. Years later, while at Cornell University, Robert Moog created his own electronic instrument, the Moog music synthesizer.

The Moog (rhymes with vogue) changed the way music was made during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Canadian rock band Rush was known for its use of the Moog, and the synthesizer was used to create the eerie soundtrack for Stanley Kubrick's film A Clockwork Orange.

For me, one of the most striking bits from the Robert Moog bios has nothing to do with his innovative genius or his weird, preternatural relationship with electronic devices, or the many uses of the Moog synthesizer , though these many aspects of the man and his legacy are quite fascinating. Strangely, what piqued my interest even more was the story of Walter Carlos, the musician who in 1969 won three Grammys for "Switched-On Bach," which Carlos created using a Moog.

Robert Moog praised the work and the man ... who, as it turns out, went on to become a woman named Wendy. I'm guessing this decision had nothing to do with Mr. Moog's praise or his sythesizer. I would hope not.

Anyway. For whatever reason, Wendy then distanced herself from the Moog work she'd done as a man. I like to think that art can transcend gender, but perhaps sex is so fundamental to our sense of self that art must explore and express who we are within some kind of gender framework.

Deep questions. I don't know. I guess until you walk a mile in another man's pumps, you can't begin to understand his decisions.

Me, I'm partial to my own Rockports and blue jeans. ;-)

I'm also partial to stories about underdogs. Which brings me to this one, written by CBC casual worker Nancy Westaway. Thanks to Ms. Westaway for writing this piece about the strain she felt working on contract for so many years. Her words remind me never to lose my perspective, and never to hitch all my hope on a situation where I have little or no control over the outcome. Just for my own sanity, if nothing esle. However, her words also encourage me to find a ways to contribute, which brings me to this, this -- my blog.

Over these past several weeks, my blog has been a source of frustration and freedom. The frustration has been the result of uncertainty -- not knowing if what I'm writing matters to anyone. No one likes to write in a vacuum. This was more the case in the early going. During the past few weeks, I've received a couple of nods and hellos, which is good enough for me.

The freedom of the blogosphere, on the other hand, lies in its availability. While my blog has driven me nuts a few times, it is entirely at my disposal. And I don't need to know html to do my thing. I can think of nothing more liberating to a writer than to have immediate access to the world.

If you've been reading my blog, you'll have realized that feeling free is rather important to me. Hey, Walter Carlos found freedom in being Wendy Carlos.

My freedom? Well, you're reading it, baby.

Thanks for reading.


Blogger Laurence said...

I met Robert in the halls at Jarvis Street once. A very nice man.
And, while I don't have everything that Walter/Wendy Carlos has issued, I have most of it. There's another very sharp mind that doesn't get too muxh attention these days.
Thanks for drawing attention to these deserveing folks.
And, as should be obvious, I'm still reading your blog. I'm not sure how many others my comment should represent but I'm fairly sure you can count 'workerbee' among them. He has mentioned your writing in conversations on the line.

9:12 AM  
Blogger oakwriter said...

Hi Laurence,

You met him! Great. I gathered he was a nice man.

Hey, you're welcome. I'm drawn to brilliant, creative, and innovative people. I also have many musical friends, and Moog has come up a few times during our many conversations. In fact, I think I'll bring him up the next time I see them. :-)

Hey, a small readership is better than none at all. Thanks!

Workerbee has mentioned my writing? I did not know that. Naturally I'll have to have a look. haha.


9:35 AM  
Blogger Ralph said...

There's a documentary out on DVD about Robert Moog (called, imaginatively, "Moog"). My wife and I watched it last weekend. It wasn't the best documentary I've ever seen, but since you've got an interest in the subject, you might want to check it out.

8:08 AM  
Blogger oakwriter said...

Thanks for tip, Ralph.

I'll keep my eye out for that.


9:54 AM  

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