I swore I wouldn’t do the music thing on this blog. Too late now. The device in the picture above saved, and changed my life in 1973. Mine was Mini Moog Model D #1273. I can remember that, but the rest of the mid 70s? Regardless, it’s now $4.99 on the app store. From Moog Music.
Enormous debate rages among purists over whether old is better than new, if software emulations are really any good. Dr. Bob took Arturia to task when they brought him their software version, showed them what a real one looked like on a scope, told them when they had that to come back and he’d sign off on it. They did. I have their app as well. And Moog’s Model 15 Modular. But, as anyone who ever owned one will tell you, ain’t nothin’ a Mini but a Mini.
Here’s the deal on that debate. I spent an afternoon a thousand years ago with Dr. Tom Rhea, the man who wrote the original Mini Moog manual. The book I was unable to understand when I bought my Mini. Oscillators? Modifiers? Huh?Who cares, when I do this it sounds like seagulls, and, dig this, now they’re tympani! Add an echo? Gone, baby gone.
What I learned from Dr. Tom was that no two instruments are ever the same, whether they’re made out of dead wood and wire or transistors and wire. He proved that to me by the two of us playing a dozen different Moogs in three product categories. Wetter, warmer, grittier, brighter, buzzier, tighter, sloppier. No two instruments were the same, no two pitch wheels or ribbons behaved the same way. All musical instruments are like snowflakes and fingerprints that way. But without all the side by side they were very similar, and with a little tweak one could be the other. Almost. An Earth Wind and Fire funk bass or an ELP lead could be had, though, without differentiating between is it “real or is it Memorex.” Old or new. Mini is Mini.
And the other noises this thing makes? Some may be similar and/or predictable, but never the same. Unless you save the program, something we couldn’t do in ’73. I often wonder about that. A couple of days down the road even now, you reload a patch and think, “Hmmm, that’s not quite what I thought it was…” Probably because your head is in a different place, or the humidity is up, or…
After 45 years of hearing them, I find the arguments pointless. An instrument is an instrument. I plugged a USB controller into my iPhone, loaded up this $4.99 app and went down Alice’s magic rabbit hole until the battery died. Does “my” new Mini sound any different than everybody else who will download one? I don’t know. How tight are Apple’s tolerance specs? Do I care? No. Because this app behaves like the real deal, isn’t $3,500 like a “new” one, or $7,000 like a “vintage” one, or even the $1,491 in 1973 dollars I paid for my original. Or the roughly $400 for a “boutique” clone or the damn single oscillator Moog Mother 32 I own that drifts worse than a circa 1970’s model.
Why do I mention this? Because as soon as my phone is charged I’m gone down the rabbit hole. Again. If I don’t come back I’m the guy under the bridge with headphones, a solar phone charging hat and a “Wil Mak Space Noyzs 4 Fud” sign. It may not be real, but it’s all that for me. I’d say maybe if I stay under the ‘phones long enough the mid 70’s will come back to me. Nah. And I wouldn’t want them to. “I was so much older then. I’m younger than that now.”