The Mother-32 is not only the first Eurorack modular instrument for Moog, it is also something much greater, the first instrument that Moog released to a wider market as an employee owned company. I actually spent the day not only reviewing the Moog Mother-32, but also speaking with the people who had a hand in creating and marketing the instrument.
Moog is a unique company because it remains how Bob Moog originally envisioned, the entire company, from design, production, repair, distribution, and marketing, remains on site in Asheville. When he established Big Briar, which later reclaimed the Moog moniker, he did something that was counter-intuitive in the age of outsourcing. He kept production in the US when he rebuilt the company, and that is where it has remained since his death.
Between Moog’s death, until recently, Moog was almost entirely in the hands of one his partners when he re-established the company. At some point, I think it was realized the best way to really keep Moog’s legacy, was not as part of some large conglomerate which could put the company at risk once again, but in the hands of the employees.
In some ways this is conscious of the history of Moog Music itself. Moog was a company that Robert Moog lost at one point, only for the moniker to won back later in his life. The fact that the company is still growing even after his death is a testament to the path he left the company on. The the company he re-established really is on a solid foundation.
I normally do not get to talk about economics and business with regards to synthesizers. Moog is a growing company precisely because while it is steeped in its past and Moog’s circuits and his legacy, it also has its foot forward into the present. In this respect, the Mother-32 really is the perfect representation of this. The technology and manufacturing techniques used, basically a digitally controlled sequencer and a surface mount technology PCB board, are very much a part of modern manufacturing and instrument technology. The voice though, is taken directly from Moog’s legacy in all analog signal paths, and his filter design, the modular nature of the instrument itself uses the very same principles of the larger Moog modular instruments. While the current larger Moog Modular systems are historically accurate instruments down to the hand drawn PCB boards, the Mother-32 is much more reflective of the direction Moog was taking the company before his death. The recognition that while one looks to the past, creating analog instruments can also be about the present manufacturing techniques as well. The minimoog voyager for example was at its core an acknowledgement of the importance of change and evolution.
I had about a nice discussion/interview with two of the three engineers who designed the Mother-32, Steve Dunnington and Amos Gaynes. The information they provided did help me write the review. The other thing I found is both were enthusiastic about designing synthesizers, and were looking beyond Moog for inspiration in terms of the design from the interface to the functionality of the sequencer. This was while keeping an eye on the aesthetics, feel, and sound of Moog instruments.
But the truth is I found out how the people in the company whether it was Emmy, Jim, and others who worked for Moog, also had a hand in these decisions. The beauty of it is how the people at Moog have input into the instruments which were being created, but also in production. This is a company that was put into a single place to run as a collaborative effort, and it works. I appreciated the invitation into the chocolate factory to do the review. The real legacy of Moog came out not just in its instruments, but in the people who work there, but also how things are done.This was all very hard to appreciate until I encountered it first hand, there is something special there. Essentially, it did create a model that other American synthesizer manufacturers have since followed. People often forget that many of the Eurorack modular manufacturers from Make Noise to Pittsburgh Modular, use a very similar model in terms of doing business. In the case of Make Noise Music this is for very good reason, it was founded by a former Moog employee. I have a very hard time seeing the success of modern modular systems without the involvement of Make Noise Music. While Make Noise makes very different synthesizers than Moog, drawing more inspiration from Buchla and Serge, it is obvious that something did carry over into their efforts, and they have grown as well.
There is much to be said about the problems in the American music and manufacturing industry that are negative, but the revival of the analog and modular synthesizer in many ways has been a bright spot. This is in some ways because of the way things are in fact different at Moog and how this has served as a model. The fact the company is transitioning to one that is employee run can improve on this even further. The symbolic nature of the Mother-32 is pretty important in this respect, since it was an instrument that evolved out of the collaborative nature of the people at Moog. As much as the company is named after a sole inventor, a significant amount of music technology comes from collaborative efforts, and the Mother-32 was no exception.
Another bright spot is Moog Music does make an effort to highlight both the women who are theremin virtuoso and the importance of Wendy Carlos contribution with regards to the popularity of the synthesizer during the tour. It was something that made me elated to hear.
I am likely to return to Asheville area in the near future, I really need to get around to visiting Make Noise Music as well, though I look forward to revisiting Moog Music.