Herb Deutsch, Co-Inventor of the Moog Synthesizer, Dead at 90

Herb Deutsch, who invented the Moog synthesizer along with his friend Bob Moog, died on December 9th. He was 90 years old.

Moog Music Inc. announced Deutsch’s death on Facebook: “Herb’s legacy and place in the history of music will never be forgotten. And here at Moog, his laughter will be missed and cherished,” the company wrote in a statement. “We are endlessly grateful for your friendship, collaboration, guidance, and creative spirit, Herb. Our love is with you and your family.”

“There is nobody more important to the Moog legacy than Herb,” the Bob Moog Foundation wrote in their own statement. “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.”

Deutsch was born in Hempstead, New York in 1932, showing a musical talent at a very young age. Throughout his childhood, he studied music and began composing at a young age. Deutsch attended the Manhattan School of Music, where he earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees.

Deutsch met Bob Moog at a music education conference in Rochester, New York in 1963, where Moog was selling theremins; at the time, Deutsch primarily considered himself a composer. The following year, the pair started working together on building a new instrument, aiming to make a “small and affordable music synthesizer. They would soon develop the first Moog synthesizer prototype, which is now part of the collections of The Henry Ford museum.

Deutsch largely handled the keyboard interface of the instrument, and detailed his experiences working with Moog in a 2003 interview: “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.”

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 and at The Town Hall in New York City.

Deutsch also spent the majority of his adult life as an educator. He was a teacher at St. Agnes High School in Rockville Centre, New York in the 1970s. He was also a professor at Hofstra University for over 50 years, where he twice served as chair of its music department. He also co-founded the Long Island Composers Alliance in 1972.