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  • Writer's pictureThom Holmes

Merry Moog 2023--Holiday Music Performed on the Moog and other Synthesizers

My blog for the Bob Moog Foundation.


Welcome to the annual holiday edition of the Archive of Electronic Music.

This is my fourth holiday podcast and it was built on a tradition for me that goes back to the year 2000. That’s when I started curating holiday music each year on a privately released CD that went to my friends. I called that CD Merry Moog. I’ve retained some of those original tracks over the years but have also added additions to the archive that always seem to come up. For this purpose, I maintain a special section of the Archive consisting of holiday music. For this year’s podcast, I would like to sample some of the new discs I discovered in the past year, plus bring some of the oldies out for your enjoyment. Sprinkled throughout will be six, short, Christmas-themed audio logos from a broadcast library album, the Sounds of Broadcasting, each logo being only 60 seconds of Moog Modular holiday joy.


Of the 32 tracks, 17 are new to the collection. Several of the tracks come from special discs issued by record labels, featuring holiday music created by their artists. One from 1981 is Ghosts of Christmas Past, from Belgium, featuring some extraordinarily out-there holiday experiments from Michael Nyman, Cabaret Voltaire, Paul Haig, and the Swinging Buildings whose contribution is “Praying For A Cheaper Christmas.” Then there is Old Man Gloom, an ambient-electronic band with “Valhalla and Christmas Eve Parts I and II from an album called Christmas. We also hear from Joy Electric, who is Ronnie Martin, an American synthesizer-pop musician. Then the Christmas Baubles, a Russian sound experiment with some unadorned electronic music for the holidays. We’ll hear a tune from BBC-Radiophonic veteran John Baker that he edited together from the sound of a mechanical cash register. I have an album of Christmas music from Pac-Man, and "Oriental Christmas" from a French progressive group called Edhels, released in 1985.


We also include some old faithful holiday tunes including examples from some major synthesists of the late sixties and early seventies: Keith Emerson, Jean Jacques Perrey, Douglas Leedy, Joe Byrd, Hans Wurman, and Bernie Krause, although in his case it is a musical assemblage of sounds from nature.


There is a complete playlist for this episode on the website for the podcast. All the details for the tracks, including what electronic instrumentation was used, is found there.


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.


Playlist

Episode 112

Merry Moog 2023

Holiday Music Performed on the Moog and other Synthesizers


1. Sounds Of Broadcasting 1, “Christmas Logos” from Sounds Of Broadcasting #6088 (1975? William B. Tanner Company, Inc.). Broadcast library track produced for the holidays. Produced using a Moog Modular Synthesizer.


2. 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


3. Hans Wurman, “Danse De La Fee-Dragee ( Sugar Plum Fairy)” from Electric Nutcracker (1976 Ovation). Moog Modular synthesizer, Hans Wurman. 1:33


4. Hans Wurman, “Danse Des Mirlitons (Flutes)” from Electric Nutcracker (1976 Ovation). Moog Modular synthesizer, Hans Wurman. 2:14


5. Emerson, Lake & Palmer, “Nutrocker” from Nutrocker / The Great Gates Of Kiev (1972 Cotillion). Arranged by, Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Written by Kim Fowley.


6. Emerson, Lake & Palmer, “Troika” from I Believe In Father Christmas (1995 Rhino Records). Arranged by, Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Moog and effects by Keith Emerson.


7. Sounds Of Broadcasting 2, “Night Of The Kings” from Sounds Of Broadcasting #6088 (1975? William B. Tanner Company, Inc.). Broadcast library track produced for the holidays. Produced using a Moog Modular Synthesizer.


8. Jean Jacques Perrey and Sy Mann, “Jingle Bells” from Switched on Santa (1970 Pickwick). USA. Moog Modular Synthesizer.


9. Jean Jacques Perrey and Sy Mann, “Christmas Bells” from Switched on Santa (1970 Pickwick). USA. Moog Modular Synthesizer.


10.Douglas Leedy, “The Coventry Carol” from A Very Merry Electric Christmas to You (1970 Capitol). USA. Moog Modular Synthesizer and Buchla Synthesizer.


11.Joseph Byrd, “Christmas in the Morning” from A Christmas Yet to Come (1975 Takoma). USA. ARP 2600 Synthesizer with an Oberheim Expander Module.


12.Armen Ra, “O Come All Ye Faithful” from Theremin Christmas (2018 Sungod). USA. Moog Etherwave Pro Theremin.


13.Sounds Of Broadcasting 3, “Electronic Tinsel” from Sounds Of Broadcasting #6088 (1975? William B. Tanner Company, Inc.). Broadcast library track produced for the holidays. Produced using a Moog Modular Synthesizer.


14.Beck, “The Little Drum Machine Boy” from Just Say Noël (1996 Geffen). USA. Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer.


15.Taeko Onuki, Inori (Prayer) from We Wish You A Merry Christmas (1984 Yen). A compilation of specially recorded Christmas-themed songs from various artists on the Yen Records label. Japanese synth-pop with vocals by Onuki. Maybe Ryuichi Sakamoto on keyboards.


16.Unknown artist, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” from Electronic Computer Christmas Music (1990 Silver Bells Music). As the name suggests, this was a label dedication mostly to producing broadcast music for the holidays. They also release several albums of nature sounds. The studio musicians go unnamed.


17.John Baker, “Christmas Commercial” from BBC Radiophonic Music (1968 BBC Radio Enterprises). A short piece used for broadcasting that was created by tape manipulation of the sounds of a mechanical cash register. It was part of collection of short works by BBC Radiophonic composers. “This record has been produced with the intention of entertaining rather than informing: the items chosen do not necessarily represent a survey of the music created at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. The Workshop at the BBC Music Studios in Maida Vale, London, is equipped with tape recording machines and other electronic equipment for generating and manipulating sound. The composition and realization of this music and sound is done by a small number of specialized creative staff.”


18.Christmas Baubles, “Orch” from Christmas Baubles And Their Strange Sounds (2002 Lo Recordings). Christmas Baubles was a Russian trio comprised of Alexander Zaitsev, Gennady Pleshkov, and Ilya Baramiya, who produced and performed this track.


19.Sounds Of Broadcasting 4, “Cutesy Christmas Logos” from Sounds Of Broadcasting #6088 (1975? William B. Tanner Company, Inc.). Broadcast library track produced for the holidays. Produced using a Moog Modular Synthesizer.


20.Michael Nyman, “Cream or Christmas” from Chantons Noël - Ghosts Of Christmas Past (1981 Les Disques Du Crépuscule). From a compilation album of Christmas-related tunes. From Nyman’s minimalist era before he became famous for soundtracks.


21.Cabaret Voltaire, “Invocation” from Eight Crepuscule Tracks (1987 Interior Music). This track was originally included on the holiday album Chantons Noël - Ghosts Of Christmas Past (1981 Les Disques Du Crépuscule), which suggested to me that it should be in this holiday podcast. Any excuse for a CV track.


22.Paul Haig, “Scottish Christmas” from Chantons Noël - Ghosts Of Christmas Past (1981 Les Disques Du Crépuscule). From a compilation album of Christmas-related tunes. Scottish songwriter, musician and singer.


23.Les Cousins Dangereux, “What Child Is This” from Gotta Groove Records 2012 (2012 Gotta Groove Records). Holiday album with various artists. Les Cousins Dangereux is Mr. Tim Thornton.


24.Joy Electric, “Angels We Have Heard on High” from The Magic Of Christmas (2003 Tooth & Nail Records). Joy Electric is Ronnie Martin from Ohio. American synthesizer-pop musician. Among his many releases is this crafty Christmas album.


25.Sounds Of Broadcasting 5, “Christmas Moog Choir” from Sounds Of Broadcasting #6088 (1975? William B. Tanner Company, Inc.). Broadcast library track produced for the holidays. Produced using a Moog Modular Synthesizer.


26.Edhels, “Oriental Christmas” from Oriental Christmas (1985 Cabana Music). Recorded in France. Drums, Percussion, Keyboards, Jacky Rosati; Guitar, Jean Louis Suzzoni; Guitar, Bass, Keyboards, Composed by, Marc Ceccotti; Keyboards, Noël Damon. I was sent this as a promotional album back in 1985 with a kind little note from the artists. Sorry it took me so long to put the Christmas-related track in my podcast. This is great example of synth-pop from France in the 1980s.


27.Pac-Man, “Snowflakes And Frozen Lakes” from Pac-Man Christmas Album (1982 Kid Stuff Records). Produced, Written by, Dana Walden, Patrick McBride. “A collection of Pac-Man’s favorite Christmas songs.” Need I say more?


28.Swinging Buildings, “Praying For A Cheaper Christmas” from Chantons Noël - Ghosts Of Christmas Past (1981 Les Disques Du Crépuscule). From a compilation album of Christmas-related tunes. This group was once rumored to be New Order in disguise. But no, they were in fact The Bowling Balls in disguise.


29.Old Man Gloom, “Valhalla and Christmas Eve Parts I and II from Christmas (2004 Tortuga Recordings). Ambient/Noise band formed in New Mexico by guitarist/vocalist Aaron Turner and drummer Santos Montano. Guitar, Drum Programming, Drums, captured and organized sound, Kurt Ballou; Performed by Aaron Turner, Caleb Scofield, Luke Scarola, Nate Newton, Santos Montano.


30.Sounds Of Broadcasting 6, “The Joyous Moment” from Sounds Of Broadcasting #6088 (1975? William B. Tanner Company, Inc.). Broadcast library track produced for the holidays. Produced using a Moog Modular Synthesizer.


31.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


32.John & Yoko and The Plastic Ono Band With The Harlem Community Choir (remixed by Thom Holmes in 2001), “Happy Christmas (War is Over)” (1971 Apple Records). I had a CD player that was in disrepair and decided to “perform” this remix using it. I ended up calling this the Lennon and Ono Sliding Moment remix.


Opening background music: Jean Jacques Perrey and Sy Mann, “Tijuana Christmas” from Switched on Santa (1970 Pickwick). USA. Moog Modular Synthesizer. Don Voegeli, “Chanukah” from Holiday & Seasonal Music (1977 EMI). USA. Produced at the Electrosonic Studio of the University of Wisconsin-Extension. Joy Electric, “Let it Snow” from The Magic Of Christmas (2003 Tooth & Nail Records). Joy Electric is Ronnie Martin from Ohio. American synthesizer-pop musician. Christmas Baubles, “Noisy Organ” from Christmas Baubles And Their Strange Sounds (2002 Lo Recordings). Christmas Baubles was a Russian trio comprised of Alexander Zaitsev, Gennady Pleshkov, and Ilya Baramiya, who produced and performed this track.


Opening and closing sequences voiced by Anne Benkovitz.

Merry Moog Logo 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.

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