DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Moog (2005)

Documentary on the man who made electronic music a major part of our musical culture

Published on July 16, 2005

Moog (2005)
 Moog (2005)

Documentary film by Hans Fjellestad
Studio: Plexifilm
Video: 1.78:1 letterboxed
Audio: Dolby Digital stereo
Extras: Director’s video notes, Deleted scenes, Interviews and added
performances by Stereolab, Album Leaf, Tino Corp. and more, Demo of
Arturia Minimoog V software on cross-platform DVD-ROM
Length: feature = 70 min.; extras = 47 min.
Rating: ****

Robert Moog is the man who brought electronic music to the masses with
his development and manufacture of the Moog synthesizer. He has
continued for almost half a century inventing electronic musical
instruments which are used by performers in every genre throughout the
world.  Some of them are interviewed, talk to Moog and are heard
in snippets of their performances in this fascinating documentary.
Included are Rick Wakeman, Keith Emerson, Gershon Kingsley,
Jean-Jacques Perrey and a several hip-hop and electronica artists about
whom I couldn’t care less. While his Mini-Moog has almost as solid a
role in rock & roll today as the electric guitar, his instruments
have found a place in classical, MOR and film music as well. 
Wendy Carlos – with her Switched-On Bach albums and the soundtrack to A
Clockwork Orange – probably brought the Moog to the attention of
classical listeners more than anyone else. Therefore it is surprising
that she is not included in this documentary (although I might surmise
why not…). (Speaking of sex, Rick Wakeman’s horribly misogynistic
comment comparing women to electronic instruments is greeted with
laughter by Moog and another performer; amazing that didn’t make it to
the cutting room floor – or the deleted folder in this case.) The
Beatles’ final album used the Moog and so did that cheesy audiophile
song in the Casino Royale soundtrack. Gershon Kingsley and Jean-Jacques
Perrey were responsible for Esquivel-type bachelor-pad albums that had
corny fun with the Moog, but the nadir was probably an LP I saved for
laughs – titled “The Electric Cow Goes Moooog.”

Moog takes us on a tour of his factory and relates his origins. 
His first instrument was a $50 kit to construct a theremin, which he
still offers (not at that price though).  That difficult-to-play
instrument came into prominence in many sci-fi movie soundtracks and is
today having a rebirth in rock and electronica groups. Moog reveals to
us at length his philosophy about creativity, design and even
psychic/spiritual matters.  The documentary paints a portrait that
is not just of a genius engineer who makes unusual bloops and bleeps
come out of circuits he designs. He comes across as a most amiable
person but also a Big Thinker. I was reminded of Bucky Fuller. 
The entire music scene has been impacted in a major way by the
Moog.  The film moves along well and should hold the interest of
audiences whether they are familiar with the subject or not. The
deleted scenes in the extras generally show themselves to be
appropriately placed where they are.  Though shot on low-budget Super 16mm the
image quality is good.  I don’t know why it is presented in
letterbox form since the 1.78:1 ratio is exactly the ratio of the 16:9
widescreen.

- John Sunier

 

 




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