UNCG Campus Weekly

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Flick your Bic … Mark Engebretson in Music is always in the mood for Moog

Photo of Dr. Mark EngebretsonIt’s a Woodstock-era modular Moog synthesizer 12 model. Putting out the grooviest sounds this side of Buffalo Creek.

Remember “Switched on Bach” from the 70’s? “The album cover has a picture of a Moog,” says Dr. Mark Engebretson.

Flick those Bic lighters and lift them high.

What it lacks in the “looks” department, as it sits in the corner of a practice room, it more than makes up for in sound. And features. Oscillators or “tone generators.” An amplifier, couple of filters, envelope generators, some cables of various colors – plus an analog sequencer, all in black cases. A music geek’s paradise.

Emerson, Lake and Palmer were the best-known Moog aficionados. (Here’s a photo.)

“It’s analog – as opposed to digital. It’s not the 1’s and 0’s of a computer,” Engebretson, an associate professor of composition and electronic music, explains. “It’s all based on transistors.”

No computer has a rich sound like this. And you don’t see them often. “These things are rare.”

Clay Westman, a junior music composition student from Durham, gently turns the knobs to create a distinctive sound. “You should record this. It’s nice,” his professor says. “You’re rolling!” All of Engebretson’s students have a chance to play it and make recordings if they want. Some will make it a part of their end-of-semester recitals.

“Putting your hands on it – it’s cool. Instead of playing only into a (computer) keyboard.”

His class the day before was devoted to this Moog (pronounced with a long “o.”) “A TA from last year came back just for that class,” Engebretson says.

David Huskins, SMTD’s director of development, has liked these synthesizers ever since he was a kid listening to ELP, Yes and King Crimson – “big art rock dinosaur bands,” he calls them. He once served on the Moog Foundation Board.

A year ago, UNCG placed several of its classic synthesizers on permanent loan to the Bob Moog Foundation – where they were recently displayed for many to enjoy. Their web site spotlights UNCG emeritus professor Dr. Art Hunkins, “an educator, cellist and experimental composer who had previously worked with tape music. In 1966, he established an electronic music studio for the School of Music at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, which purchased the very early version of the Moog modular synthesizer now on permanent loan to the Bob Moog Foundation. UNCG’s electronic music studio was the first in the state.”

It adds that when UNCG placed its order, the School of Music invited Bob Moog to give a lecture.

So much for the history. What about the one classic Moog that UNCG retained?

“I kept this one,” Engebretson says, “because I really like it.”

By Mike Harris