July 2019 - Michelle Moog-Koussa (part 1)

Michelle Moog-Koussa of the Bob Moog Foundation and Rick Reid, host of the Theremin 30 Podcast
The July episode of the Theremin 30 podcast features music from England, USA, and Canada. Rick Reid's interview guest is Michelle Moog-Koussa, executive director of the Bob Moog Foundation. Michelle's interview will conclude in the August episode


*The full-length recordings featured in this show were used with the knowledge and permission of the artists and composers. Please support the artists by visiting their websites, purchasing their recordings, and attending their performances.





Submit your music, suggest a calendar event, or volunteer for an interview by writing to: theremin30podcast@gmail.com. Visit Theremin 30 on Facebook.

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Copyright 2019 Rick Reid



David Brower  00:04

This is Theremin 30. Thirty minutes of theremin music, news events, and interviews with a new episode about every 30 days. Now here's your host from Denver, Colorado, USA, Rick Reid.

Rick Reid  00:19

Hello. Welcome to the July 2019 edition of Theremin 30, the monthly podcast all about theremins and the people who play them. In this month's episode, I've got music from a diverse group of artists who have all given me permission to play their recordings in the show. I'll tell you about some theremin-related events coming up soon. And I've got part one of a special two-part interview with Michelle Moog-Koussa, the founder and executive director of the Bob Moog Foundation. She's going to tell us about the theremin-related exhibits at the new Moogseum in Asheville, North Carolina. Let's get things started now with a fun kind of Zappa-esque track from UK-based thereminist Matteo Ciminari. He tells me this song takes its name and inspiration from the Pimlico neighborhood in central London.

Rick Reid  05:57

Dorit Chrysler sent me that haunting track called "Schneeleichen." It's an excerpt from her music for the Austrian German TV mini-series M: A City Hunts a Murderer directed by David Schalko. It's a modern retelling of the 1931 Fritz Lang silent thriller M that started to Peter Lorre. And before that, you heard something a little more cheerful. That was "Pimlico" by Matteo Ciminari. As always, you can learn about all of the artists featured in this podcast by following the links at the website, Theremin30.com. Be sure to support your fellow thereminists by purchasing their music and attending their concerts. Speaking of concerts, the next couple of months offer lots of interesting shows workshops and festivals. Here are a few highlights from our calendar of theremin events. On July 10th, Shueh-Li Ong will be a guest performer at Sweetwater Music's Crescendo Cafe in Fort Wayne, Indiana, here in the States. On July 15th, Katica Illényi will be performing in Budapest. Also this month the Radio Science Orchestra will be performing Music Out of the Moon at the Blue Dot Festival, a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing. RSL are in great company. Both Kraftwerk and a New Order are on the bill at this festival. And it's the 10th anniversary of the Theremin Academy in Colmar, France. Carolina Eyck and Thierry Frenkel will be conducting the four-day workshop beginning July 18th. And Armen Ra will be performing at the Great Forgotten Garden Party on July 21st, in Yonkers, New York. You can find links to more information about these events and many more on the calendar of theremin events at Theremin30.com. Now let's go to school with Dr. G and the Astronomical Unit with their catchy and educational tune "What are Stars?"

Rick Reid  11:34

That was Dr. G and the Astronomical Unit from Nova Scotia, Canada. Dr. G is a theremin-playing science geek who puts on educational shows for kids. You can see his music video for "What Are Stars?" by following the link in the show notes for this episode at Theremin30.com. And you can catch Dr. G live on tour at Nova Scotia Public Libraries, July 30th through August 13th. We'll be sure to put links to the shows on the Theremin 30 calendar. There's more to come on the Theremin 30 podcast including part one of my visit with Michelle Moog-Koussa, so stay tuned.

Rick Reid  12:42

Up next we have a live concert recording of James Bohn playing his own composition "Canaveral."

Rick Reid  18:01

My special guest this month is Michelle Moog-Koussa, founder and executive director of the Bob Moog Foundation in Asheville, North Carolina. Of course, Michelle's famous father, Dr. Robert Moog started his career making theremins with his dad in his basement, and thousands of thereminists around the world play instruments he designed. I visited with Michelle via Skype this past weekend. Michelle, thank you so much for being on the Theremin 30 podcast, we really appreciate you taking the time to tell us about events coming up at the Moogseum.

Michelle Moog-Koussa  18:32

You're welcome. It's great to be here, Rick.

Rick Reid  18:34

Set us up a little bit for people that are not familiar with your organization. What is the Bob Moog Foundation and what is its mission?

Michelle Moog-Koussa  18:41

Well, the Bob Moog Foundation was created to carry on Bob Moog's pioneering legacy. And the genesis of it really was the family and friends discovering what an incredible inspirational force Bob had been to thousands of people all over the world throughout his life and career. And the goal is to carry that inspiration forward. And so our mission is to inspire people through the intersection of science, music, and innovation. And we do that in three main ways. We have an educational project called Dr. Bob's Sound School where we teach little kids about the science of sound. We have a huge archive of material that we protect and preserve, and share with other museums and organizations and researchers. And we now have our own Moogseum where those two focuses of education and archive preservation converge.

Rick Reid  19:42

So the educational component of that, kids come to your facility for classes or is this something you take out into the community?

Michelle Moog-Koussa 19:49

Dr. Bob's Sound School is a 10-week curriculum. So it's not these kind of things that are a little bit more common where an organization will go into the school for a day, do presentations and lessons and then leave. This is a 10-week curriculum that meets state and national standards, but is highly experiential. And what we're doing is teaching little kids about the basic physics of sound. So in order to be able to reach the most amount of students, what we do is in the late fall or early winter of every year, we train second grade teachers in how to teach our curriculum. And then they go and teach the kids. And right now there are over a hundred teachers in our local area teaching Dr. Bob's Sound School to over 3,000 students.

Rick Reid  20:34

Is this something that will be carried outside of North Carolina eventually?

Michelle Moog-Koussa 20:37

So, we've always wanted to expand Dr. Bob's Sound School. One of the really special things about the curriculum is that it is making such a difference for kids in understanding the basic physics of sound, we're getting really wonderful feedback about it, that we want to be able to spread that to kids in other areas. But to do so we're-- we have to build our own educational tool. And I can't go into exactly what that is right yet until we get it done. But it's taking a while to accomplish. But after that educational tool is developed, we will be expanding nationwide. That has always been the goal.

Rick Reid  21:13

Now you also mentioned an archive. I don't know if most people would know what an archive is. So can you tell me more about what that is and what it contains?

Michelle Moog-Koussa 21:20

Oh, sure, the Bob Moog Foundation archive is a vast collection of historical materials that pertain to Bob Moog's legacy. And our archive includes over 2,500 schematics, prototypes, instruments, vintage catalogs, desktop notebooks, schematic notebooks, thousands of photographs, recordings, and the list kind of goes on from there. But that should give you a basic idea. And we have spent years and years restoring and preserving all of that, and much of that is being used right now in the Moogseum.

Rick Reid  22:01

And also you say that people use it for educational research?

Michelle Moog-Koussa 22:05

For books basically, just, for example, Albert Glinsky who is writing Bob's authorized biography has accessed the archive, and we've had other people who are doing research check in with us to verify history as it actually happened, and which is not always how it's reported.

Rick Reid  22:23

Now, the Moogseum which just opened a few weeks ago, you've got the grand opening coming up in August. Is that just about your father's legacy? Or does it go beyond the more general history of electronic music or musical instruments?

Michelle Moog-Koussa 22:38

There's a mix of both. Part of what we're trying to do in the museum is to present Bob Moog in the fullness of his life, not only as the icon. So there is a certain emphasis on helping people understand the ups and downs of his life and career and the richness of it. But at the same time, there is a - the Bob Moog timeline is even just a little bit smaller than our timeline of synthesis, which I was very committed to making sure that we included in the Moogseum. The timeline of synthesis celebrates 34 different developments in synthesis starting with a Telharmonium and ending with the Haken Continuum. And so, we're celebrating over a hundred years of innovation and synthesis. So there are two reasons. Two reasons that we decided to include this. One is because we are helping people understand Bob Moog's legacy and some of his work, but we wanted to make sure to put that work in context. There were so many people who were working on synthesis before him and so many who have worked on it after him. We wanted to make sure that people understood that. Also, Bob was a lecturer and student of electronic music history. And he felt very strongly that the so many other inventors who have been part of this synthesis spectrum should be recognized, understood, and honored. So we have made sure to do that at the Moogseum along with all the-- there are eight different exhibits and the two timelines are two of those.

Rick Reid  22:38

Well, of course, this podcast is focused on the theremin. Maybe some people don't know that Bob got his start in electronic musical instruments with the theremin. How's that represented in the Moogseum? 

Michelle Moog-Koussa  23:07

It is well-represented. Leon Theremin has a place of honor in the museum in that there's a whole exhibit, a rather large exhibit, dedicated to him, helping people understand who Leon Theremin was, what a theremin is, how it works, and what Bob's connection to Leon Theremin is. And within that exhibit of in which there are many photos of Leon Theremin, we have three of Bob's theremins: a rare R.A. Moog model 201 which was one of 20 of the first that he ever made before he even had a logo for his company in 1954 when he was 19 years old, a Melolodia which is his first transistorized theremin made in 1961, and serial number two of 50 of the 1998 Ethervox MIDI theremin. And the reason I'm giving providing that detail is because that development in theremin technology between 1954 and 1998 represents Bob's lifelong love and devotion to the theremin. This was a way for us to help people understand that despite everything that was happening in the realm of synthesis, everything else that he was working on, he really kept his love of the theremin alive.

Rick Reid  25:41

Did Bob and Leon ever get to meet? I can't recall.

Michelle Moog-Koussa  25:43

 They did. Bob and Leon met for the very first time in 1989 at the Bourges Electronic Music Festival in Bourges, France. And Dad and musicologist Olivia Mattis actually interviewed Leon Theremin for Keyboard magazine at that meeting. And then they met again in 1991 at Stanford Centennial. And some of your listeners will have seen photos from that because there were many electronic music luminaries there, including Leon Theremin.

Rick Reid  26:13

you've chosen to have your official grand opening of the museum on Leon's birthday. How did that come about?

Michelle Moog-Koussa  26:19

Well, we knew we wanted to have the grand opening in August and honoring Leon Theremin by having a grand opening on his birthday just seemed fitting. He is really the Genesis not only for Bob's career but for everything then that Bob inspired. So the museum is as much a celebration of Leon Theremin as it is of Bob Moog.

Rick Reid  26:45

Thank you for your time. I really enjoyed visiting with you and wish you great success with the Moogseum and all the other projects you're involved with as well.

Michelle Moog-Koussa  26:52

Same here, Rick. Thank you so much for the opportunity.

Rick Reid  27:01

In the August episode of the Theremin 30 podcast, I'll play the rest of my interview with Michelle. She talks about the Moogseum grand opening events planned for Leon Theremin's birthday and the new documentary film about Bob Moog called Electronic Voyager. So to make sure you don't miss that one, subscribe to Theremin 30 wherever you get your podcasts. With the time we have left I'm going to play a portion of one of my own theremin recordings released under my stage name Phlogiston Theory. This is an experimental track I made with a Moog Theremini and a bunch of effects devices. It was inspired by audio recordings of the 2014 European Space Agency mission to land a space probe on a comet. This is called "Rosetta and Philae."

Rick Reid  28:56

Well, since this is my own song I figure it's okay for me to talk over it. I want to thank you so much for listening to the Theremin 30 podcast. At last count, we have listeners in 39 countries. But I want you to do more than just listen. If you have a recording of your own original theremin music that you'd like me to play on the show, please send it in. All genres are welcome and I only play music with the permission of the recording artists. So I need your participation to keep filling up the episodes with fun and interesting theremin music. Also please let me know whenever you will be playing theremin in public so I can add your event to our calendar. You can reach me through the message form on the Theremin 30 website Theremin30.com. And if you haven't checked out our Facebook page, you need to do that, too. I've posted lots of theremin photos and links to the latest theremin news articles. Well, that's all for this month. I'm Rick Reid. Thank you for tuning in.

David Brower  29:51

You've been listening to the Theremin 30 podcast. Visit Theremin 30 on the web at Theremin30.com.