Herbert Deutsch, transformative figure in electronic music, dies at 90

Herbert A. Deutsch, composer who worked with engineer Robert Moog in the 1960s to invent the portable electronic music synthesizer that revolutionized the sound of rock, classical and other forms of music, December 9, New York He died at his home in Massapequa Park, State. he was 90.

His son-in-law, Daniel Rogge, confirmed his death but did not mention a specific cause.

The device became known as the Moog synthesizer, and Deutsch played a key role in its invention. The Moog machine used a piano-like keyboard to synthesize electronic sounds from a cabinet of modules holding voltage-controlled gizmos connected by patch cords.

Before the invention of the Moog in 1964, musical synthesizers were primarily found in university labs, where they were cumbersome and immobile. Moog, which looks like a telephone switchboard, is heavy but mobile. In the late 1960s, musicians began using versions of this device in their recording studios and concerts.

The Beatles used the Moog on several songs such as “Here Comes the Sun” and “Because” from their 1969 album Abbey Road. The Doors, The Monkees, Pink Floyd and The Rolling Stones used his Moog devices, as did Keith Emerson, Donna Summer, Pink Floyd and Stevie Wonder. Classical His pianist Wendy Carlos reworked several pieces of Johann Sebastian’s Bach on this machine in his Grammy-winning “Switched On Bach” (1968).

By the 1970s, Moog devices were being used throughout the music industry, including disco, dance and hip-hop.

“The Moog machine entertained a generation that welcomed musical innovation, not to mention the massive amounts of black drug hashish,” wrote Washington Post reporter Richard Leiby in 2000, evaluating the machine. increase. “The tangle of patch cords and modules that could replicate and invent different tones also sparked an sonic revolution.”

Deutsch and Moog first met in 1963 at a music conference in New York. An accomplished composer, his Mr. Deutsch taught music history and theory at Hofstra University. Moog was a doctoral student in engineering at Cornell University. Deutsch had dabbled in electronic music a bit, but at that conference he saw Moog selling a kit for making a theremin.

A year ago, Deutsch was using one of Moog’s kits to make his own theremin. They talked a little bit about theremin, and then about music more broadly. I didn’t,” Deutsch recalled in his history of involvement with the machine. “At the time, the notion of existence was to put these into the musical world as concert pieces that Bob didn’t really know about.”

A few months later, Moog attended a concert hosted by Mr. Deutsch at the studio of sculptor Jason Selley, who welded automobile bumpers, in New York City. Mr. Deutsch played a mix of electronic sounds on his tapes, while other musicians banged on various items in his Seley studio. “A medley of sculptures with echoes of ant repair shops!” wrote a New Yorker reporter who was in attendance. “Another sculpture gave a voice, another took the voice. The bumper sounded louder and louder.”

Moog was surprised and impressed.

Afterwards, they had dinner and began discussing the project that would eventually become the Moog synthesizer. he was an electrician. I was a musician,” Deutsch told The New York Times in 2007. And he will say ‘sure’. ”

While Moog was working on the electronics, Mr. Deutsch began composing songs to play on them. He also made suggestions to Moog on how the machine would work, including using a keyboard (a simple interface any musician could use) to trigger sounds.

“Without Herb Deutsch, the history of synthesizers would have been very different, because there were no keyboards. Synthesizers,” he told the New York Times. “The involvement of Herb Deutsch was very important.”

The Moog synthesizer was introduced in 1964 and Moog, who died in 2005, continued to improve and in 1970 introduced a smaller version called the Minimoog.

Herbert Arnold Deutsch was born on February 9, 1932 in Hempstead, New York. His family was poor and owned a chicken farm. They had a piano they couldn’t play.

“When my musical life started, I didn’t really know what it was. I was standing there with a stick and I was hitting the ground with it, and when I moved the stick, I could see that the pitch was changing, and I was like, ‘Oh, if I keep moving this stick, I can’t. ‘No, no, no, no’, and I heard it.”

Deutsch was introduced to electronic music as a college student studying music education at Hofstra. One of his professors gave him a recording of electronic music by composer Vladimir Usachevsky.

In a 2015 interview with Henry Ford, Deutsch said, “I took that recording home, put it on my record player, turned off all the lights, and sat in the dark listening to this new electronics. I remember it clearly,” said the American Museum of Innovation. “I fell in love with it immediately.”

After graduating from Hofstra in 1956, Mr. Deutsch attended the Manhattan School of Music, where he received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Music. He attempted to complete his Ph.D. at New York University, but he did not complete it. In the early 1960s, he began teaching at Hofstra, where he was head of the music department until his retirement in 2018.

Mr. Deutsch was married to the former Margaret Carbray from 1960 until her death in 1996. The following year he married his Nancy DiNapoli.

In addition to his wife, survivors include two children from his first marriage, Lisbeth Mitchell of Huntington, New York, and Edmund Deutsch of Bayport, New York. Three stepchildren of Cheryl Sterling of Ridgewood, New Jersey, Adam Brau of Los Angeles, and Daniel Rogge of Seattle. Nine grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

Versions of the Moog synthesizer are used by contemporary artists such as Cold Play, Nine Inch Nails and Dr. Dre.

Deutsch and Moog stopped working together after 1970, according to the New York Times.

Despite having Moog’s name on the machine, not his, Deutsch told The Times, “It didn’t prevent me from being me.”

“It’s always exciting to know that I was a part of music history—that I was there,” he said.

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