Notes on Bob Moog's Birthday

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Notes on Bob Moog's Birthday

Post by ChrisStack » Thu May 24, 2012 3:21 am

I was talking to Michelle Moog-Koussa tonight. Every year about this time we talk about the need to write this story down. Tonight I finally did it...

Driving a truck into the night, headed to Nashville to tell the world about a new way to play guitar… no, wait… that’s a different (but related) story. Back on track… Here goes…

It’s late evening, May 23, 2012. Bob Moog’s birthday. It has been a great day with people remembering Bob in many ways. His birthday five years ago was a very special event in some very different ways. Michelle Moog-Koussa and I have been talking about writing about it ever since. I promised some people I would do it now, so here it is…

For me, this story encompasses not just Bob’s birthday in 2007, but also other events separated by many years, so this may jump around a bit. To understand the full impact on me you’ll need to know about these somewhat disparate points in my life.

An elementary school music teacher let my class listen to the Album "Switched-on Bach". As most (or all) of you know, this album was performed by Walter (later Wendy) Carlos on synthesizers designed by Bob Moog. This starts my near life-long interest in electronic music.

Around the same time I see Nipsey Russell on the Tonight Show recite the poem "Abu Ben Adhem"

"Abou Ben Adhem"

Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An Angel writing in a book of gold:

Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the Presence in the room he said,
"What writest thou?" The Vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord
Answered, "The names of those who love the Lord."

"And is mine one?" said Abou. "Nay, not so,"
Replied the Angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerily still; and said, "I pray thee, then,
Write me as one who loves his fellow men."

The Angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blessed,
And, lo! Ben Adhem's name led all the rest!

-- By Leigh Hunt.

I loved the poem, looked it up and memorized it. I still remember it.

I graduate from highschool and work various factory jobs, primarily to enable me to buy synthesizers. My interest in electronic music (and five years in a zinc die-casting factory) prompts me to return to school to get an associates degree in Electrical Engineering, after which I go to work as a printed circuit board designer. I spend the next ten years designing PCBs for the industrial computer industry.

During that time, I learn that Bob Moog lives in Asheville and is giving a public lecture at UNCA. I attend the lecture and afterwards introduce myself. Bob calls me the next day and I wind up designing a few boards for him. This was back in the Big Briar days. These boards were for the Multi Touch Sensitive Keyboard that he designed for John Eaton, a product that according to the Moog Foundation, he considered to be his crowning achievement. This is of course a very significant event for me since he played a large part in me choosing electronics as a profession.

Many years go by…

After ten years as a printed circuit designer, I make a switch and spend the next ten years working primarily as a marketing manager, broken up by a year and a half stint as an engineering manager (high frequency CATV analog electronics). In addition to electronic music, I start playing music (on oud, flute etc) for belly dancers every weekend in Asheville, NC.

Mid-afternoon, Sunday, August 21, 2005 - Preparing for a bellydance music gig, I get the idea to start a song by reciting "Abu Ben Adhem" over a low drum beat with Ishani, the dancer that night, playing the part of the angel. I call her to see if she has a "book of gold" to use as a prop. She does.

Sunday night approximately 10:00pm, August 21, 2005 - We perform Abu Ben Adhem at Hookah Joe's hookah lounge. Ishani is a great dancer and it is very well received.

Monday morning, August 22, 2005 - I get an email from Barry Darnell who also did printed circuit design for Bob. The email informs me of Bob's death. I had been out of touch with Bob for a while at that point. I heard he was sick, but had no idea that it was terminal. Needless to say, it came as a shock.

Tuesday afternoon, August 23, 2005 - Barry and I attend Bob's funeral at a local synagogue. After the rabbi finishes his part, one-by-one he calls the family members up to speak. The first one to speak is Bob's oldest daughter. She says she wanted to start by reciting one of Bob's favorite poems...

...Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream....

When I heard that, I almost passed out. I was standing at the edge of the room. My legs got weak and my vision grew dark. And then I remembered that the email mentioned that Bob died at 2:00 on Sunday… right about the time that I got the idea to add the poem to our performance. I was in a daze for quite a while after that.

I cannot say I knew Bob well. After doing the projects for him, I would see him occasionally here and there, but we never really hung out or talked about anything much other than electronics. The subject of poetry never came up.

I'm still trying to understand the significance (if any) of this. The mathematician in me says that everything we do, think or say is an opportunity for a coincidence. That would add up to billions, trillions or more opportunities in a lifetime. If some amazing ones didn't come along every once in a while, that would be the strange thing. But still, when something like this happens to you, it's hard to be objective about it.

In May of 2007, Moog Music hired me as Marketing Manager. This actually had little or nothing to do with the previous work I had done for Bob. Bob was gone and the only one there from the Big Briar days that even remembered me was Steve Dunnington.

My first week at Moog was also the week of Bob’s birthday. We had a nice birthday party at the office in his memory, and over ice-cream and cake we found out that (who had been doing a weekly countdown of the top 20 synthsizers of all time) had “coincidentially” just named the Minimoog as the top synth. When Mike Adams (President of Moog Music) called them to thank them for doing that on Bob’s birthday, their reply was something like “What… we didn’t know it was his birthday!”

It was at this party that I first met Michelle Moog-Koussa. When I told her the story about the poem, her response was “Oh my god, you’re the “Abou-Ben-Adhem-Guy”. After Bob’s funeral, I sent my story to the Caring Bridge website set up for Bob and his family. Mixed in with the hundreds (if not thousands) of other comments, I didn’t think that anyone had seen it. I was wrong.

Michelle and I spent much of the party talking about this coincidence… and many others. It turns out that my story was one of many surrounding Bob’s passing. She related numerous other similar stories (many of which I unfortunately can’t remember). There were one or two that were along the lines of “when I heard that Bob died, I went to turn on my old Minimoog that hadn’t worked in years… it worked!”

I thought that the birthday party supplied a nice end to the story. I was wrong. The next day Michelle called me. Our conversation went something like this…

Michelle: “Did you see LOST last night?”

Me: “No, why?”

Michelle: “It was the season finale (of season two). They were breaking into a bunker to stop the device that was jamming their radio transmissions. In doing so, they mortally wounded the person inside. As this person was dying they divulged, “The programmer was a musician. The password is GOOD VIBRATIONS”.

Me: “Yeah? Beach Boys… so?”

Michelle: “GOOD VIBRATIONS is the epitaph on dad’s tombstone.”

Me: “Hoe-lee _________ !!!!!!” (Insert uniquely Southern expression of surprise)

It wasn’t over then either. At NAMM shows or during factory visits I heard many similar stories. It helped give my time at Moog a very surrealistic edge.

Every year about this time Michelle and I talk about how all this needs to be written down. This was the year it happened.
Chris Stack
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Re: Notes on Bob Moog's Birthday

Post by analoghaze » Thu May 24, 2012 4:54 am

Thank you so much.
I am almost in tears.
Bob moog has touched so many with his knowledge.
Music can Name the Unnamable and Communicate the Unknowable.

'I am... everything is... changed... they're calling... your face... interwoven... who is...' Patient mumbles inaudibly to a tune (sounds like 'Thanks for the memory).

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Re: Notes on Bob Moog's Birthday

Post by Box » Thu May 24, 2012 5:12 am

Very interesting story, thank you for sharing with us. Being a young-blood I didn't get into synthesizers physically until after Bob Moog left us. Had been interested in them for a few years before that, but couldn't afford one being a mere pre-teen. I remember my mom telling me he had passed away that day after school. I was saddened, but didn't fully grasp it like I do now. I spent most of yesterday watching various documentaries on Bob Moog and other Moog related videos. It's upsetting I never got the chance to meet him, I really wish I could've had that chance. I look up to him, for awhile I wanted to be an electronics engineer. AP Calculus during my senior year kind of put a dent in that though. It's kind of weird to say, seeing that I didn't know him personally, but I miss him. Kind of makes you wonder what would be, you know.

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Re: Notes on Bob Moog's Birthday

Post by Steve » Thu May 24, 2012 8:24 am

What a great story Chris.. I feel Bob's light and energy in every circuit of my Moog gear. I feel as if my Voyager (AE) is sentient. Yes "Good Vibrations" indeed.
May peace be your guide

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Re: Notes on Bob Moog's Birthday

Post by Voltor07 » Thu May 24, 2012 2:23 pm

analoghaze wrote:Thank you so much.
I am almost in tears.
Bob moog has touched so many with his knowledge.

Indeed he has.. I wish I could have met him. :(
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Re: Notes on Bob Moog's Birthday

Post by museslave » Thu May 24, 2012 6:13 pm

Chris, your first week at Moog was the week that Sonic State named the Minimoog the top synth. That was when you met Michelle.
Here's another coincidence for you:

I knew the guys at Sonic State, and had done some interviews with them. When they decided to do the top 20 thing, they contacted me to make some videos about the Minimoog that they could use as interviews, etc. So, I did. After the Top-20 deal was over, I asked if I could post my videos on the then-new YouTube, since most of them weren't used. Sonic State said sure.
It was the success of those Minimoog videos on YouTube that led me to meet Michelle, and eventually work for the BMF.
Lastly, the Google guys told me they watched those videos to get a grasp on the Minimoog when they were designing the Goog for Bob's birthday.
It's funny how things work. :)

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Re: Notes on Bob Moog's Birthday

Post by thealien666 » Thu May 24, 2012 6:42 pm

Great stories indeed.

Every time I play my Minimoog D, I can't help but think of Bob. He said, in the documentary film about him, that something was happening between musicians and the equipment that he designed for them. They "connect" with the instrument, not only physically but also on a higher level, intuitively.

I guess, now that he's gone into another dimension, that we might also "connect" with him spiritually when we play one of his marvelous instruments ? Who knows ? There might be more to life than simply this. Bob sure thought so.

I'm usually a very down to earth, rational type of guy, but sometimes the timing of some events and the way they happen make you stop, sit down and say; hmmmm.

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Re: Notes on Bob Moog's Birthday

Post by EricK » Thu May 24, 2012 6:47 pm

Thats a nice story, Chris.

I tell you guys what, this has probably been the most popular Google Doodle ever, and I was so blown away by all of the youtube videos people uploaded to say happy birthday.

It should be a holiday.
Support the Bob Moog Foundation:

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Re: Notes on Bob Moog's Birthday

Post by ChrisStack » Thu May 24, 2012 10:19 pm


You're caught in the Asheville vortex now for sure ;) It's good to know your roots go deep.

Chris Stack
I do interesting things

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