Making music the Moog way at UNCA

UNCA music major Rosser Douglas looks out on a vast audio landscape and sees endless possibilities. That's due in large part to the electronic inventions of Bob Moog, who loved manipulating sound with the knobby inventions called synthesizers he created decades ago.

Moog music: Wayne Kirby, chairman of the UNCA Department of music, shows a Hanger Hall student how a theremin works inside the Bob Moog Electronic Music Studio in the Lipinsky Auditorium building on campus. The college dedicated the studio on Nov. 30. Photo by Jason Sandford

"I really owe a lot of my creative identity and electrical know-how" to Moog and the college's music classes that have been influenced by him, Douglas said. "I think for all he's done, we're in a world of eternal debt."

Douglas was one of several speakers on hand Nov. 30 to help dedicate the Bob Moog Electronic Music studio. The studio — situated below Lipinsky Auditorium on the UNCA campus — will serve as part classroom and part showroom. It boasts a mix of classic analog synthesizers, including a Voyager Mini Moog, as well as Moog pedals and theremins. There's also a mixing console and an electronic keyboard lab decked out with MIDI keyboards and Apple computers loaded with software to work with digital recordings

UNCA graduate Steve Dunnington told the crowd that Moog, who taught at the school, was a friend and mentor who influenced musicians worldwide.

But perhaps his biggest contribution, said Dunnington, was listening to musicians' "wants and technical needs" and then creating the tools to satisfy them. "Listening opens doors," he added.

A Dec. 3 concert at the White Horse Black Mountain capped the celebration. The event showcased the work of eight UNCA student members of the Electronic Music Ensemble, featuring their compositions wedded to film clips. The proceeds will benefit the school's music department.

Professor Wayne Kirby, who chairs the department, said Moog's equipment helps a musician connect to his or her sound.

"Creating this music is like working with clay," he said in a story about the studio posted on UNCA's Web site. "By turning knobs on these synthesizers, students are creating a sound sculpture."

The studio dedication is just the latest expression of an ongoing effort to preserve and promote the work of Moog, who died in 2005. The Bob Moog Foundation has been working on an archive and raising money for a museum in Asheville. Earlier this year, the Moogseum received a $600,000 grant from the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority.

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