Despite the fact most non-musicians have never heard of him, Bob Moog is one of the most influential people in modern music. He never wrote a hit song, or even released a record, yet his invention the ‘MiniMoog’ synthesiser can be heard on music from the last 40 years, and has influenced the machines now heard on a massive proportion of both popular and experimental music.
In a fascinating documentary Hans Fejellestad followed Moog over several months, recording his reflections on the way machines have changed music forever.
Before technology got involved music was almost exclusively a communal thing. People came together to play and to listen, and it was always about a moment that could not be captured. As technology has developed from recording, to synthesising sounds, to sequencing them on a computer this has changed.
Now, Moog points out, we have a situation where music can made by one person on their own with a computer, to be listened to by one person effectively on their own through headphones. With all our personal devices, ‘long tail’ of access to whatever we choose to listen to, and individualistic society this is increasingly the case.
Some of the biggest artists in the world like Aviccii, Calvin Harris, Skrillex make their music on their own with a computer in solitude. I sometimes see teenagers walking to school all wearing oversize headphones over one ear all listening to their own personal soundtrack. They are, as Sherry Turkle puts it, ‘alone together’.
It is interesting that one of the only aspects of the music industry still bringing in significant amounts of money is that of the shared experience of live shows.
As I sit now in departures at Heathrow airport I am struck by how much this scene has changed over only a few years. Now almost everyone has their eyes glued to some kind of personal device, a scene that is repeated in communal spaces almost everywhere.
Working together is hard work, sometimes simply being together is hard work, and it is so much less stressful to retreat into our own personalised worlds accessed through our devices. All the more important, I think, to make sure we work at actually being together, at valuing that and making the effort to make it happen.