Herb Deutsch, co-inventor of the Moog synthesizer, has died, aged 90

Herb Deutsch
(Image credit: Moog Music)

Herb Deutsch, the American musician, inventor and teacher who worked closely with Bob Moog on his early synthesizers, has died at the age of 90.

A statement on the Moog Music Facebook page reads: On Friday, we lost a dear friend and member of the Moog Music family.

“Herb Deutsch, co-inventor of the Moog synthesizer, was a true innovator, a skilled musician, a beloved teacher, and a brilliant mind whose legacy is one that all of us at Moog - and anyone who has ever played a synthesizer - share the honour of carrying on. Without his insights, Bob might have never invented what was to become the prototypical synthesizer, forever changing the way the world creates and enjoys music.”

Deutsch first became aware of Bob Moog in the early ‘60s when one of his students showed him an article in which Moog described how to build a Theremin.

“I read the article and thought, ‘this is very interesting.’” Deutsch wrote in Yes & No magazine in 2010 in an essay that’s now available to read on the Moog website. “I thought maybe I could do this myself, but I knew I would need the parts. So I called Bob Moog, and actually I did reach his wife, Shirley, at that time. I did what probably everyone else did, saying, ‘Is this the place where I can reach Mr Mewg?’ And she immediately corrected, ‘no, that is not the way the word is pronounced.’ And I never forgot it from that point.”

Deutsch and Moog went on to meet at a conference in New York in 1963. The pair immediately struck up a friendship and soon began to discuss the possibility of creating a new musical instrument, which turned out to be what we now know as the synthesizer.

Deutsch is credited with being the first person to compose a piece of music on a Moog synthesizer - Jazz Images: A Work Song in Blues.

“The inspiration for that piece was, in fact, the concept of creating a new world of sound with an old world of performance,” he explains. “To me, that piece was a perfect thing for me to do, because I always loved jazz. I always loved improvising, and now, I discovered the beautiful ability to find the sounds that I could use to change my emotional feelings during the tune itself.” 

Moog Music released a video profile of Deutsch as part of its Giants series earlier this year. Check it out below.

Ben Rogerson

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it. 

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