Google’s homepage logo today celebrates Robert “Bob” Moog, electronica pioneer and inventor of the Moog synthesizer, who was born on this date in 1934. In what just might be the coolest interactive Google Doodle ever featured, their logo is replaced with a synth you can actually play, record, and share right from the homepage, similar to last year’s amazingly popular playable Les Paul guitar logo.
The synthesizer Google Doodle is best viewed in Google’s Chrome browser and was created using HTML5, allowing users to record and play back their own tracks.
Users can control the synthesizer by using the letters on their keyboard, or by clicking directly on the instrument’s keyboard.
Already, users have recorded and uploaded their own tracks to YouTube (the logo was released earlier in Australia and the UK). Some have even mixed and edited, like this one from user barabas89:
“When people hear the word ‘synthesizer’ they often think ‘synthetic’ — fake, manufactured, unnatural. In contrast, Bob Moog’s synthesizers produce beautiful, organic and rich sounds that are, nearly 50 years later, regarded by many professional musicians as the epitome of an electronic instrument,” wrote Google Software Engineer Joey Hurst on the Official Google Blog of the “sonic doodler.” “‘Synthesizer,’ it turns out, refers to the synthesis embedded in Moog’s instruments: a network of electronic components working together to create a whole greater than the sum of the parts.”
Finding Your Way Around the Google Moog Synthesizer Logo
The first four letters in the Google logo (G-O-O-G) make up the Mixer, Oscillator, Filter, and Envelope, respectively. The last two letters, lowercase “l” and “e,” are made up of curling power cords to the right of the synth.
In the Mixer area, you can control the master volume as well as that of the oscillators. Move your cursor up or down while holding the click on the volume control to make the knobs in each section of the controls spin.
The Oscillator area houses the controls for sound frequency, range, and waveform. Filters allow you to adjust the tone of the system, with options for cutoff, attack, decay, contour, sustain, or glide. In Envelopes, the last controls section, attack, decay or sustain envelopes change the volume curve.
Once you’ve recorded your own track, Google has built in sharing controls so you can link to it for sharing on social media sites. Moog Music put together a Quick Start Guide for fans who want to master the Moog Doodle (also available as a PDF download).
About Electronic Music Pioneer Bob Moog & the Birth of the Analog Synthesizer
Moog, the son of a Con Edison electrical engineer, was born in Queens, New York, on May 23, 1934. According to the Moog Music website, he considered himself a geeky kid and had a penchant for building small radios, organs and amps in his family’s basement workshop.
At the age of 14, Moog built his first theremin; by 19, he was a published author, having written “The Theremin” for Radio and Television News in January, 1954. Readers showed an interest in purchasing theremin kits and his company, R.A. Moog, launched.
Over an educational career that saw him attend Queens, Columbia, and Cornell, Moog earned a bachelor’s degree in physics, an electrical engineering degree, and a Ph.D. in engineering physics. He also received honorary doctorates from the Polytechnic Institute of New York University and Lycoming College.
Moog didn’t invent the synthesizer, though he forever changed its capabilities. Previous synths, like the RCA Mark II, used hundreds of individual vacuum tubes to create their sound. Familiar with the transistor, Moog experimented with the theory voltage could be used to control frequency.
In 1964, he authored a paper titled “Voltage-Controlled Electronic Music Modules”, which proposed his method of controlling the frequency of an oscillator to change pitch and volume. That paper formed the basis of the analog synthesizer as you know it today. The same year, he debuted the very first Moog modular synthesizer; each was made custom to order and was available in two finishes, a wooden console or a black, portable box.
Moog left his own company in 1978 and despite having joined theremin-maker Big Briar, was actually prohibited from using his own name in marketing right through the 1990s. In 2002, he reacquired the Moog Music name and released an update of his Minimoog called The Voyager. The last synthesizer he worked on, the Little Phatty, was released posthumously.
Moog Music Celebrates Birthday With Animoog iPhone/iPad Synthesizer Sales
Moog Music is offering their Animoog app, the “first professional synth designed for iPhone 4, 4S and the 4th Generation iPod Touch,” for $0.99 until May 29 in honor of their founder’s birthday. Animoog for iPad is on for $9.99.
Animoog is powered by their proprietary Anisotropic Synthesis Engine, successfully mashing the musical capabilities of Moog synths with touch and mobile technology. Animoog creators explain the transition to mobile synth on the Moog Music website, saying their library of timbres is “derived from analog waveforms captured from classic Moog oscillators, both vintage and modern, and run through a boutique’s worth of high-end outboard and analog signal processors.”
Bob Moog Foundation Benefits from Namesake’s Birthday Sales
Moog Music Inc. is donating 50 percent of all online clothing and merchandise sales on May 23 to the Bob Moog Foundation, in celebration of the birthday of their namesake.
The BMF focuses on educational outreach and, according to their website, “was created to carry Bob’s legacy forward by continuing to touch people’s lives through electronic music, just as Bob did.” Their three main projects are:
- The Moogseum, described as an “innovative, interactive exploratorium at the intersection of music and science,”
- The MoogLab, recently renamed Dr. Bob’s SoundSchool, which “uses the intuitive interface and sonic richness of Moog instruments to teach children and adults the science behind the sounds of electronic music.”
- The Bob Moog Archive Initiative
Want to learn more about Bob Moog? You can download a free e-book of his personal statement from Moog Music. It was written by Moog himself at the age of 17, in 1951, as he attended New York City’s Bronx High School of Science. At the time, he was preparing applications for college; his innovative energy and passion for science and music shine through in his writing, even at that age.
So what are you waiting for? Get playing, and then come back to share your best song creations with us in the comments below!