1. The Polar Music Prize Ceremony
2. Electronics & music
3. Switching to synthesizers
4. The minimoog
5. Changing phases of popular music
6. New genres
7. The Theremin
2001 Laureate


Robert Moog is being awarded the Polar Music Prize for 2001 for his design of the MiniMoog, the first compact, easy-to-use synthesizer, which paved the way to the realm of electronic sounds that has revolutionised all genres of music during the past half-century.


Receiving the prize from the hands of His Majesty the King of Sweden

Stockholm, May 2001

In 2001 the Polar Music Prize celebrated its 10th Laureates.

Polar Music Prize Ceremony was held at Berwaldhallen, Stockholm in the month of May. The evening continued with a banquet in Vinterträdgården at Stockholm’s Grand Hôtel.

HM King Carl XVI Gustaf presented the Prize to the three Laureates Robert Moog, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Burt Bacharach.

The citation for Robert Moog was read by Manfred Mann, legendary progressive rock keyboard player, he also read a poem for Robert. The citation for Karlheinz Stockhausen was read by Karl Bartos from Kraftwerk and the citation for Burt Bacharach was read by Elvis Costello.

Special arrangements of the Laureates’ music was performed by the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and an amazing line up of international and Swedish artists honored the Laureates by performing their music both at the ceremony and banquet.

All three Laureates of 2001. (Source: © Polar Music Prize)

Manfred Mann reading a poem for Robert Moog

Manfred Mann at the Polar Music Prize ceremony

Bob Moog's speech at the Prize Ceremony

Electronics & music

Born in 1934 in New York City, son of a piano teacher and an electronics engineer, Moog took piano lessons as a child. In 1957, he earned a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Queens College, a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Columbia University and a PhD in Engineering Physics from Cornell University. In 1954, Moog founded the R. A. Moog Company as a part-time business, designing and building electronic musical instruments in a small apartment together with his wife.

Moogs in music

Columbia University, New York City (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Switching to synthesizers

Switched on Bach - a classical album played on modern synthesizers was released in 1968. It played a key role in popularizing classical music performed on electronic synthesizers, which had until then been relegated to experimental and "pop" music. A significant interest rose in the in electronically rendered music in general, and the Moog synthesizer in particular.

The first commercialised Moog synthetizer. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

First prototype of an electronic sound generating machine with keys (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The minimoog

During the pioneering days of electronic music from 1948 to 1965 electronic tones were generated primarily by laboratory instruments and equipment designed for radio and telephonic purposes - Radio France in Paris and WRD in Cologne are two examples where musicians could compose and study.

A studio built up in this way proved to be difficult to use, the equipment unwieldy and impracticable. The emerging composition were almost more like lab research around sound, together with new musical compositions like the serial music of Polar Music Prize Laureates Stockhausen and Boulez. Thus, by the beginning of the 1960s, the need for developing a specially designed machine or instrument became more and more apparent.

Moog Sonic 6, Moog modular 55, Moog 1130 Percussion Controller, Minimoog. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Moog Music Inc.™ (Source: Moog Music Inc.)

History of the MiniMoog

Creating new genres

The MiniMoog had the added advantage of not requiring any special knowledge or expertise within the field of engineering or electronics and it could be played like any other instrument. The synthesizer paved the way towards new realms of sound and a new kind of structural thinking in the creation of music. It would soon revolutionize music in all its genres, from symphonic and chamber music to jazz, rock and rhythm & blues.

The Moog Lab invites bands and artists to play on Moog instruments

Chick Corea talking about the MiniMoog sound

Robert Moog shows how a theremin works on Swedish TV
Pamelia Kurstin explaining the basics

The Theremin

Invented by Russian inventor Léon Theremin and patented in 1928. This early electronic instrument is played without any physical contact between the instrument and its player who controls pitch and volume with the left respectively right hand. Moog constructed his own already in 1948.

Theremin virtuosa Clara Rockmore made the instrument and its specific, quite mystic sound famous in the 20-30', but after that the theremin got a bit forgotten and not considered a "serious" instrument. Robert Moog, interested in how to produce sounds electronically started to build prototypes as early as a 14-year old boy, Moog continued to build Theremins and kits through high school.

Etherwave Theremin from Robert Moog's kit (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Theremin in classical music.

Léon Theremin playing his instrument.

Content of biography is presented here as it was published in 2012.

All pictures from the ceremony and the banquet by © Polar Music Prize.

In memoriam Robert Moog, 1934–2005.

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