Herb Deutsch, co-inventor of the Moog synthesizer and professor at Hofstra University, passed away on Friday at the age of 90. He is remembered for his contributions to the music industry and his friendship, collaboration, guidance, and creative spirit. Moog Music Inc. expressed their gratitude for Deutsch and their condolences to his family.
Deutsch was born in 1932 in Hempstead, New York, and developed a love for music at the young age of 4. He pursued his passion for music, earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Manhattan School of Music. In 1963, he met Bob Moog at a music education conference and shared with Moog that he had built a Melodia theremin using Moog’s design, forging a friendship between the two men.
Deutsch and Moog began working on a new instrument in 1964 that would eventually become the first Moog synthesizer. Deutsch mainly focused on the keyboard interface. He wanted the synthesizer to be small, affordable, and appealing to a wide range of musicians. Deutsch composed “Jazz Images – A Worksong and Blues,” the first piece ever written for the Moog, and frequently performed it at early Moog concerts at the Museum of Modern Art, the Town Hall, and other venues. When asked about their collaboration, Deutsch said, “People have accused me of modesty, but actually I think that someone else would have been in the same place and gotten to a similar point within a short time. It was a direction that fit into the history of technology and its inevitable link with the arts.”
The Bob Moog Foundation stated, “There is nobody more important to the Moog legacy than Herb. His deep creativity, curiosity, intelligence, and pursuit of musical frontiers prompted Bob Moog to design the first Moog synthesizer with Herb’s invaluable guidance and collaboration. As the prototype evolved into larger modular systems, Herb and Bob worked together to promote this revolutionary instrument, with Herb composing and performing on them and teaching about them at seminars and in his classroom.”
In addition to being an inventor and composer, Deutsch was also a dedicated educator. He was a teacher at St. Agnes High School in Rockville Centre, New York in the 1970s, and later went on to become a professor at Hofstra University, where he chaired the music department for over 50 years.