Mining Moog

In January, on a mountainside outside Asheville, Michelle Moog-Koussa opened a storage shed on the property of her late father, electronic-music pioneer Robert Moog, and stumbled onto what may prove to be the synthesizer legend’s greatest legacy: his archives.

Treasure trove: The last of the original Minimoogs — wrapped in a trash bag and covered with mold — was found in a shed on the property of late synthesizer legend Bob Moog. Photo By Doug Babb

The shed revealed boxes stacked upon boxes, filled with everything from reel-to-reel master tapes and prototype instruments to photos and notes jotted down at Moog’s desk.

“It’s like walking through the pathways of his brain,” Moog-Koussa says of the collection. But the shed was not kind to Moog’s materials, which came to be covered by a layer of powdery mold. “We were not aware of the peril it was in,” she says. “The whole collection is at risk.”

For six months, a small group of people sifted through the ramshackle pile of boxes, turning over more and more artifacts, including the last ever of the original run of Minimoog synthesizers—complete with commemorative plaque—languishing in a trash bag.

For those in the know, like synthesizer composer Doug Babb, the collection was the Holy Grail. “It basically blew his mind,” Moog-Koussa says of Babb’s reaction to the find.

Moog, who moved to the Asheville area in 1978, died in 2005. The company he founded is still based here, and now Moog-Koussa, as head of the Bob Moog Foundation for Electronic Music, is trying to rescue and resuscitate the collection, beginning with the tapes that store demos and master recordings of synthesizer groundbreakers like Keith Emerson and Wendy Carlos.
“This is all from ‘67-‘71, the really early days when these musicians were defining a new medium,” she notes.

The collection has since been moved to a climate-controlled environment, and the foundation hopes to soon begin the arduous task of cleaning the tapes and preserving them in a digital format. As part of the requirements for a recently applied for grant from the Grammy Foundation, Moog-Koussa put out an online call online for an archivist. The next day, while retuning from Moogfest in New York, she found 19 messages on her voicemail, and she soon selected a worthy candidate from UNC-Chapel Hill with the unlikely specialty of cleaning mold from reel-to-reel tapes.

The foundation is also kicking off a major fundraising campaign to raise $50,000 to restore and digitalize the collection. An estimated $200,000 will be needed to restore all of the materials, which, Moog-Koussa says, she hopes will be preserved in an Asheville museum.

Support for the fundraising is already gaining steam, with noted musicians—including alt-rock musician and recent Asheville “resident” Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins—stepping forward with donations and to write letters on behalf of the foundation. (Those letters can be read by subscribing to the foundation’s e-newsletter.) And on Nov. 15, the Orange Peel will host an event called “Enter the Mind of Moog,” with proceeds going to the preservation effort.

Visit www.moogfoundation.org for more information on the foundation or how to contribute to the project.

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