Merry Moog 2022
Vintage Holiday Music Performed on the Moog and other Synthesizers
My Podcast: The Holmes Archive of Electronic Music
My blog for the Bob Moog Foundation.
Happy holidays to everyone and welcome to the podcast. I would also like to welcome new listeners of the podcast who are connecting from my blog for the Bob Moog Foundation where I write about the history of the Moog in recordings. This month’s Moog Foundation blog is dedicated to holiday music created using the Moog synthesizer. an expanded playlist, represented here and in my podcast, covers all of those Moog tracks plus many others featuring various electronic music instruments from 1939 to the present. Everything from the Hammond Novachord to the Electro-Theremin, the Moog Modular and Buchla Modular synthesizers, to drum machines, the Yamaha DX-7, ARP 2600, Crumar Stringman, the Prophet-5, the Kurzweil 200 and Emulator III sampling keyboards, and modern software synthesizers. Who knew you could do present a virtual history of the synthesizer by way of holiday tunes? The mother lode of these recordings is bunched around the years 1969 to 1975 when analog synthesis was in its prime.
This is my third holiday podcast and it was built on a tradition going back twenty years for me. That’s when we issued the music on a privately released CD called Merry Moog. I’ve retained some of those original tracks over the years but supplement them with whatever discoveries I happen to make each year. This time, I sought some holiday music done on the original synthesizer, the Hammond Novachord, from the year 1939. We’ll hear those two tracks first. Then we will listen to a space-age work by Paul Tanner called "Holiday on Saturn," written for the Electro-Theremin, an imitation of the Theremin that consisted of an ordinary sine wave generator housed in a box. We’ll hear the original recording from 1975 of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, “I Believe In Father Christmas” which is much different than the more familiar version that was re-recorded in 1994. We’ll feature many more tracks from the 1970s featuring the Moog Modular synthesizer in all its glory, from Jean Jacques Perrey and Sy Man, Douglas Leedy, Don Voegeli, the Moog Machine and some numbers from Hans Wurman’s seldom-heard interpretation of the Nutcracker, and even a tune for the season for which Richie Havens needed a Moog. We will also have a wide variety of musical styles, from pop to jazz, to reggae, children’s music, movie music, gospel, and some noise and dark ambient tracks along with classic holiday songs. Did you ever hear the reggae tunes "Rub-a-Dub Christmas" or “The Lord Will Provide” by Phillip Fraser? They have some truly crazy synth work in them.
And while Bernie Krause was one of the original Moog masters, I am featuring two special tracks from a cassette release he did with Philip Aaberg that do not feature a Moog at all. All of the sounds on this album were generated from the sampled sounds of animals, organized and played back using two sampling keyboards. They provide us with renditions of "Deck the Halls" and then we’ll close the program with all-animal version of "Feliz Navidad." And I hope there are some other tracks that will surprise you and bring joy to your holiday. This podcast is a little longer than normal—more than two hours—so that you can put it on and let it become the soundtrack for your holiday activity.
And I’ve included a couple of tunes especially for our listeners in the Ukraine. I want to acknowledge a recording of “Carol of the Bells” by Joe Byrd from 1975. I just learned that this tune originated in 1916 when Ukrainian composer Mykola Leontovych transformed a simple Ukrainian folk tune into a choral masterpiece. The folk tune was one that Ukrainians sang in the spring when swallows returned from their winter migration. The song was part of New Year celebrations meant to bless each other with a prosperous harvest. Byrd interprets this softly using the ARP 2600 Synthesizer and an Oberheim Expander Module.
This will be followed by a contemporary folk tune by Ukrainian folk artist Andriy Kok, a performer from the Lviv region of Ukraine. He is an accordionist and synth player and adds drum machines as needed to his recordings. He has many recording of Ukrainian folk tunes so I encourage you to check him out.
I invite you to sit back in front of a real fireplace, or perhaps a synthetic one of your imagination, perhaps with a glass of wine in your hand, and enjoy these electronic sounds of the season.
Merry Moog 2022
Vintage Holiday Music Performed on the Moog and other Synthesizers
1. Frank Luther with Zora Layman, “Christmas Bells” from Christmas In Song (1939 Decca). This is the original 78 RPM release featuring a vocal quartet, bells, and music played on the Hammond Novachord. 0:38
2. Frank Luther with Zora Layman, “Christmas Day in the Morning” from Christmas In Song (1958 Vocalion). This is a reissue of the 1939 release featuring a vocal quartet, Zora Layman, bells, and music played on the Hammond Novachord. The stereo is simulated. There are some nice moments for the Novachord on this record. 3:12
3. Paul Tanner, “Holiday on Saturn” from Music for Heavenly Bodies (1958 Omega). This rare disc features Tanner playing the Electro-theremin, an imitation of the Theremin that was a box with an audio oscillator inside and a rotary dial to control the pitch. Tanner, a renown studio musician and trombone player, later provided the sound of the Electro-theremin on the Beach Boys hit Good Vibrations (1966). 4:16
4. Greg Lake, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, “I Believe In Father Christmas” from I Believe in Father Christmas (1995 Rhino). Produced by Keith Olsen; written by Greg Lake, Peter Sinfield; vocals, Bass, Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, Greg Lake; Drums, Percussion, Carl Palmer; Hammond organ, Piano, Moog Synthesizer, Keith Emerson. This is the original version released in 1975 with a choir and Moog Modular. It differs significantly from the stripped-down mix, also included on this CD, originally appearing on Works Vol. 2 in 1977 and then later in 1994. Rhino Records was kind enough to package all of ELP’s X-Mas related tunes onto a CD EP in 1995, from which this version comes. 3:34
5. Keith Emerson, “Troika (From Prokofiev's Lieutenant Kije Suite)” from The Christmas Album (1995 Rhino). This is the Prokofiev composition that Greg Lake adapted into “I Believe in Father Christmas.” Later on, Emerson released this interpretation of the Prokofiev piece on The Christmas Album” that appeared in the US in 1995. It doesn’t appear on the original UK version in 1988. And again, this is taken from the nifty holiday CD EP also released in 1995 by Rhino. This album was made with instruments from Korg, Ensoniq, Alesis, and Opcode. 4:19
6. Jean Jacques Perrey and Sy Mann, “Jingle Bells” from Switched on Santa (1970 Pickwick). Moog Modular Synthesizer, Sy Mann; Moog Modular Synthesizer Programmed by, Jean-Jacques Perrey. 1:44
7. Douglas Leedy, “The Coventry Carol” from A Very Merry Electric Christmas to You (1970 Capitol). Moog Modular Synthesizer and Buchla Synthesizer. 4:46
8. Jean Jacques Perrey and Sy Mann, “Christmas Bells” from Switched on Santa (1970 Pickwick). Moog Modular Synthesizer, Sy Mann; Moog Modular Synthesizer Programmed by, Jean-Jacques Perrey. 1:52
9. Don Voegeli, “Chanukah” from Holiday & Seasonal Music (1977 EMI). Produced at the Electrosonic Studio of the University of Wisconsin-Extension. Don wrote the original synthesized version of the NPR “All Things Considered” theme. It was created in his Electronic Studio of the University of Wisconsin. He used a Moog Modular Synthesizer plus a Fender Rhodes, Polymoog, and ARP string synthesizer and 16-track recorder. 1:02
10.Joseph Byrd, “Christmas in the Morning” from A Christmas Yet to Come (1975 Takoma). ARP 2600 Synthesizer with an Oberheim Expander Module. 1:34
11.Douglas Leedy, “Good King Wenceslas” from A Very Merry Electric Christmas to You (1970 Capitol). Moog Modular Synthesizer and Buchla Synthesizer. Leedy was an American composer, performer and music scholar. He founded the electronic music studio at UCLA where he had access to both Moog Modular and Buchla synthesizers, and it was during this period from about 1969-71 that he was commissioned to create several albums of electronic music. His training as a minimalist and experimental composer always flavored his music with unexpected sounds and patterns. 3:05
12.Moog Machine, “O Holy Night” from Christmas Becomes Electric (1970 Columbia). Moog Modular Synthesizer. 2:43
13.Armen Ra (Armen Hovanesian), “O Come All Ye Faithful” from Theremin Christmas (2018 Sungod). Moog Etherwave Pro Theremin. Armen Ra is an American artist and performer of Iranian-Armenian descent. He plays Theremin. His music fuses Armenian folk music with modern instrumentation, along with melodic lounge standards and classical arias. 4:43
14.Don Voegeli, “Carol of the Drum” from Holiday & Seasonal Music (1977 EMI). Produced at the Electrosonic Studio of the University of Wisconsin-Extension. 1:01
15.Philippe Renaux, “Noël Blanc” (“White Christmas”) from We Wish You A Cosmic Christmas (1977 Sinus). Belgium. Minimoog, Arp Axe, Arp Soloist, EMS Synthesizer, Stringman Crumar, Fender Rhodes, Electronic Drums. 3:21
16.Jean Jacques Perrey and Sy Mann, “Tijuana Christmas” from Switched on Santa (1970 Pickwick). Moog Modular Synthesizer, Sy Mann; Moog Modular Synthesizer Programmed by, Jean-Jacques Perrey. 1:58
17.Joseph Byrd, “Carol of the Bells” from A Christmas Yet to Come (1975 Takoma). ARP 2600 Synthesizer with an Oberheim Expander Module. 1:12
18.Андрій Кок (Andriy Kok), “Небо І Земля” (“Heaven and Earth”) from Різдво На Галичині. Колядки (Christmas in Galicia. Christmas carols) (2006 Ліда). Folk singer, accordion and synth player Andriy Kok has recorded many albums of Ukrainian folk music in addition to a number of holiday songs and carols. 5:00
19.Douglas Leedy, “In Dulci Jubilo” from A Very Merry Electric Christmas to You (1970 Capitol). Moog Modular Synthesizer and Buchla Synthesizer. 1:14
20.Bernie Krause, Philip Aaberg, “Deck the Halls” from A Wild Christmas (1994 Etherean Music ). This delightful cassette is from Bernie Krause, known for his Moog explorations with Paul Beaver back in the day. He later turned his attention to audio ecology and the recording of nature sounds, particularly of animals. This very special Holiday recording is composed entirely of animal sounds. Some you'll recognize as the natural animal voices themselves. Others may sound like instruments, but they are actually digitally transformed animal sounds. Wild Sanctuary Productions invites you to enjoy a truly unique celebration of both the wild kingdom and Holiday Spirit. All animal and ambient sounds recorded on location worldwide by Bernie Krause with the exception of the fish (courtesy of U.S. Navy). Animal samples, Bernie Krause and Phil Aaberg. Arrangements, new materials, all keyboards (K 2000/Emulator III) Phil Aaberg. 8:12
21.The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Paul Freeman, and The Chicago Synthesizer-Rhythm Ensemble, John Tatgenhorst, “The Little Drummer Boy” from Turned On Christmas (1985 Columbia). Conductor, Paul Freeman; synthesizers, The Chicago Synthesizer-Rhythm Ensemble; Orchestra, The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Keyboards & Synthesizer Concepts: Ed Tossing; Electric Bass, Steve Rodby or Bob Lizik; Drums, Tom Tadke; Guitars, Ross Traut and Bill Ruppert; Percussion, Russ Knutson. 4:08
22.Montana Sextet, “Little Drummer Boy Jam” from Christmas Time Is Here (1987 Philly Sound Works). Arranged By, Conductor, Producer, Fender Rhodes, Piano, Cowbell, Shaker, Yamaha DX7 Synthesizer, Musser Vibraharp, Vincent Montana Jr.; Congas, Greg Peache Jarman; Guitar, Ronnie James; Snare Drum, Tenor And Bass Drum, Gene Leone. 8:46
23.Montana Sextet, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” from Christmas Time Is Here (1987 Philly Sound Works). Arranged By, Conductor, Producer, Fender Rhodes, Piano, Cowbell, Shaker, Yamaha DX7 Synthesizer, Musser Vibraharp, Vincent Montana Jr.; Congas, Greg Peache Jarman; Guitar, Ronnie James; Snare Drum, Tenor and Bass Drum, Gene Leone. 4:56
24.Mannheim Steamroller, “Good King Wenceslas” from Christmas (1984 American Gramaphone). Arranged, conducted, produced by, Chip Davis; Drums, Percussion, Soloist Recorder, Black Oak Hammered Dulcimer, Soprano Dulcian, Crumhorn, Bells, Vocals, Dry Ice, Chip Davis; Lute, Bass, Eric Hansen; Baldwin SD-10 Synthesizer, Harpsichord, Clavichord, Toy Piano, Prophet 5 Synthesizer, Fender Rhodes, Vocals, Bells, Jackson Berkey; Classical Guitar, Twelve-String Guitar, Ron Cooley; Flute, Willis Ann Ross; French Horn, David (High D) Kappy; Harp, Mary Walter; Oboe, Bobby Jenkins; Strings, Bill Ritchie, Grace Granata, Michael Strauss, Michelle Brill, Richard Altenbach, Richard Lohmann, Roxanne Adams, Wayne Anderson. 3:39
25.Don Voegeli, “Jingle Bells” long, short, and tag from Holiday & Seasonal Music (1977 EMI). Produced at the Electrosonic Studio of the University of Wisconsin-Extension. 1:56
26.Don Voegeli, “Lully, Lullay - The Coventry Carol” from Holiday & Seasonal Music (1977 EMI). Produced at the Electrosonic Studio of the University of Wisconsin-Extension. 1:01
27.Fossergrim, “Ave Maria” (2020 Bandcamp). Fossegrim is billed as “Dungeon Synth music from the Adirondack Mountains.” In Scandinavian folklore, Fossergrim is is described as an exceptionally talented fiddler. No fiddles here. I think Fossergrim is one Ian Nichols of Albany, New York. Check out his Bandcamp presence. 3:54
28.Phillip Fraser, “Rub A Dub Christmas” from Rub-A-Dub Christmas (1985 Tuff Gong). Jamaican reggae recording for the holidays. Piano, Organ, Synthesizer, Bass, King Asher, Steely Johnson. 2:53
29.Phillip Fraser, “The Lord Will Provide” from Rub-A-Dub Christmas (1985 Tuff Gong). Jamaican reggae recording for the holidays. Piano, Organ, Synthesizer, Bass, King Asher, Steely Johnson. There is some crazy synth material on this track. Despite it being recorded in 1985, it sounds quite analog for a synth. 3:17
30.Unconditional Loathing, “Carol, with the bells” from Holiday Mood (2018 Bandcamp). Every artist dreams of releasing an album of hit holiday songs that will surprise the world and bring great wealth. This is not that album. But it is remarkably noisy and dark. Check out Unconditional Loathing, from Fargo North Dakota, on Bandcamp. Self-described as “A footnote in the history of Midwestern noise that refuses to completely go away.” 1:51
31.The Smurfs, “Deck the Halls” from Merry Christmas With The Smurfs (1983 Dureco Benelux). This album is in English from the Netherlands. 2:17
32.Vatto Lofi, “Holiday Lofi” from A Merry Lofi Christmas EP (2021 Bandcamp). Providing a low-fidelity tune for the holidays, but I don’t know if “lofi” refers to the low-fidelity sound that is currently a thing (and it does sound like that) or is the actual name of this Icelandic musician. 2:21
33.Rotary Connection, “Silent Night” from Peace (1968 Cadet Concept). I think this holiday album from the famed psychedelic soul ensemble was perhaps only their second album. Produced by Charles Stepney and Marshall Chess, I’ve included this track not only because it features some crazy electric guitar but also because Minnie Riperton’s five-1/2-octave vocal range could effectively imitate a Theremin, which begins in this track around 1:30 into it. In an interview I once heard her say that one of her childhood fascinations was imitating that “science fiction stuff” with her voice. Interestingly, Charles Stepney also included a Moog synthesizer, used sparingly, on some Rotary Connection tracks, but I’ve heard none on this album. Co-producer Marshall Chess often added Theremin to Rotary songs but this is not one of them. It’s pure Ripperton. The Rotary Connection vocalists: Bobby Simms, Jim Donlinger, Jim Nyeholt, Minnie Riperton, Mitch Aliota, Sidney Barnes, Tom Donlinger; The studio band, Leader, David Chausow; Bill Bradley, electronic effects; guitar, Bobby Christian; bass, Louis Satterfield; bass, Phil Upchurch; bass vocals, Chuck Barksdale. 3:52
34.Klaus Wunderlich, “Sleigh Ride” from Multi Orchestral Organ Sound (1982 Teldec). Wunderlich was a prolific musician who mastered the Hammond Organ. Occasionally, he performed with a synthesizer and this track comes from an album not of holiday music but of various favorites, performed in the style of the original artists. This is a Leroy Anderson song arranged in the Anderson style. The MOOS (Multi Orchestral Organ Sound) was produced by the Wersi organ company in Germany. This organ/synth/drum machine hybrid was also known as the Wersi Galad and play both synth and traditional organ sounds. There is a current musician advocate for this instrument in Florian Hutter (listen to the next track), of Germany. 3:11
35.Florian Hutter, “Frosty the Snowman” privately released (2022 No Label). Florian is a living master of the vintage Wersi Delta and Atlantis synthesizer/organ hybrids with a built-in rhythm box. In recent years he has begun to release his music on Spotify. This is taken from the first or second day of his Christmas Special 2022 during which he releases a new tune every day. I don’t normally feature tracks recorded from YouTube, but this was too good to pass by and it fits with the vintage music played in the previous track by Wunderlich. Check him out. 2:34
36.Edwin Hawkins, “The Christmas Song” from The Edwin Hawkins Christmas Album (1985 Birthright). Produced when the Yamaha DX-7 became the top selling synthesizer on the planet, this is a great example of its tidy, digital sound. Richard Smallwood, keyboards, synthesizer; Edwin Hawkins, keyboards, synthesizer; Joel Smith, Drums and Fender bass; Kenneth Nash, percussion. Sounds like one or two Yamaha DX-7s. 3:57
37.Ryuichi Sakamoto (坂本龍), “Father Christmas” from Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (戦場のメ)(1983 Virgin). Music By, Composed By, Performer, Ryuichi Sakamoto. Our best wishes to Mr. Sakamoto who is suffering from Stage 4 cancer. In June he said, “Since I have made it this far in life, I hope to be able to make music until my last moment, like Bach and Debussy whom I adore.” 2:06
38.Bob Wehrman, John Bezjian and Dusty Wakeman, “Ring Christmas Bells” from Christmas Becomes Electric (1984 Tropical Records). Not be confused with an album by the same name by The Moog Machine in 1969. Unnamed synthesizer programmed and performed by Bob Wehrman and John Bezjian. From Marina Del Rey in California. 1:46
39.Hans Wurman, “Overture Miniature” from Electric Nutcracker (1976 Ovation). This Austrian composer made several remarkable, classically influenced Moog Modular albums from 1969 to 1976. This was one of his last big Moog projects and is difficult to find. 2:54
40.Hans Wurman, “Danse De La Fee-Dragee ( Sugar Plum Fairy)” from Electric Nutcracker (1976 Ovation). Moog Modular synthesizer, Hans Wurman. 1:33
41.Hans Wurman, “Danse Des Mirlitons (Flutes)” from Electric Nutcracker (1976 Ovation). Moog Modular synthesizer, Hans Wurman. 2:14
42.Keith Emerson, Emerson Lake & Palmer, “Nutrocker” (live) from Pictures at an Exhibition (1972 Cotillion). A fitting reworking of Tchaikovsky arranged by Kim Fowley and performed live, Newcastle City Hall, 26 March 1971. Hammond C3 and L100 organs, Moog modular synthesizer, Minimoog, Clavinet, Keith Emerson; bass guitar, acoustic guitar, vocals, Greg Lake; drums, percussion, Carl Palmer. "Nut Rocker", a rock adaptation of The Nutcracker originally arranged by Kim Fowley and recorded by B. Bumble and the Stingers in 1962. 3:48
43.Richie Havens, “End of the Season” from Alarm Clock (1970 Stormy Forest). A melancholic reflection on life from Mr. Havens, totally synthesized on the Moog Modular by Bob Margoleff. 3:32
44.Bernie Krause, Philip Aaberg, “Feliz Navidad” from A Wild Christmas (1994 Etherean Music ). This delightful cassette is from Bernie Krause, known for his Moog explorations with Paul Beaver back in the day. All animal and ambient sounds recorded on location worldwide by Bernie Krause with the exception of the fish (courtesy of U.S. Navy). Animal samples, Bernie Krause and Phil Aaberg. Arrangements, new materials, all keyboards (Kurzweil 2000/Emulator III) Phil Aaberg. Percussion on Feliz Navidad performed by Ben Leinbach. 5:37
Opening background music:
Jean Jacques Perrey and Sy Mann, “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer” from Switched on Santa (1970 Pickwick). Moog Modular Synthesizer, Sy Mann; Moog Modular Synthesizer Programmed by Jean-Jacques Perrey. 2:16
Moog Machine, “Twelve Days Of Christmas” from Christmas Becomes Electric (1970 Columbia). Arranged by Alan Foust; Synthesizer Tuner, Norman Dolph; Moog Modular Synthesizer, Kenny Ascher. 3:55
Jean Jacques Perrey and Sy Mann, “Silent Night” from Switched on Santa (1970 Pickwick). Moog Modular Synthesizer, Sy Mann; Moog Modular Synthesizer Programmed by Jean-Jacques Perrey. 1:52
Opening and closing sequences voiced by Anne Benkovitz.
Merry Moog artwork designed by Anne Benkovitz.
Additional opening, closing, and other incidental music by Thom Holmes.
See my companion blog that I write for the Bob Moog Foundation: