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Moog Constellation


The Moog Constellation was planned as an answer to the Yamaha GX-1 (premiered in the US in 1973 at the NAMM convention), the three units were also going to be sold separately but however, the Constellation was never sold.

Keith Emerson:
"There were two Moog prototypes that were fitted together as one unit on a rolling stand. There was a polyphonic keyboard called the Apollo that was the prototype for the Polymoog and then on top of that was an instrument that was called the Lyra, sort of a Minimoog on steroids. This was a super Minimoog. It had an extensive modulation section and it had pressure sensitivity on the keyboard. The Lyra and the Apollo were Moog prototypes - along with Taurus bass pedals. Together they all became the Moog Polyphonic Ensemble or Constellation. That's what it was used on Cal Jam or if You've seen any of the Brain Salad shows. I played Benny The Bouncer and Jerusalem on it and also used it in Third Impression for the horn lines. So the Polyphonic Ensemble was really three units. The top was the Lyra, the polyphonic Apollo on the bottom, and the Taurus bass pedals on the floor."


Moog product description: The LYRA solo synthesizer has a touch sensitive keyboard for expressive control of modulation, loudness, and tonal nuance. Three rock-stable audio oscillators provide new phasing sounds and pitch contouring. A separate modulating oscillator and three contour generators provide increased control over sound. And, only MOOG has the patented filter that creates the sound preferred by today's performing artists. The layout of the Lyra makes the instrument easy to understand and use in concert. The Lyra may be expanded into an entire sound ensemble with Moog accessories.

The Moog Lyra (designed by Jim Scott and Bob Moog) was the monophonic synthesizer built to sit on top of the Apollo.

The Moog Lyra is built up very clear and brings one to smile, because the power button was called with 'juice'. Remarkably in this instrument is the along built-in pitchwheel and a touch sensitivity modulation source. For it he lacks the modulation wheel. The sound production of the 49 keys mono synthesizer is built up subtraktiv. It stands (operating elements from the left to the right) from a LFO (Low Frequency Oscillator) by the waveforms sinus and rectangle. After the 'Modulator' it follows the 'Oscillator Contour' containing an AD (Attack-Decay)-envelope with switchable sustain phase. The 'Oscillator Master Controls' serves adjusting the volume of the rectangle wavesform of the VCOs (Voltage Controlled Oscillator) and can be determined, in addition, whether this should be modulated by the LFO, the envelope or not at all. In addition, the intensity of the LFOs and the envelope is to adjust here. With 'Sidebend' the modulation intensity of the second oscillator is adjustable. It follows three VCOs with the name 'Tone Oscillator 1/2/3': Oscillator 1 offers the wave forms sawtooth and rectangle, can be tuned fine and roughly (+/-2 octaves) and to adjust in the volume. Oscillator 2 is similarly built up, nevertheless, it offers a bigger set area for the mood, a triangle instead of sawtooth wave and the possibility to be separated from the keyboard controlling tension. The third oscillator offers adjustment for the volume, the modulation depth of LFO and envelope as well as an intensity regulator for 'Phase Shift'. The phase shift is achieved either through the pressure dynamic of the keyboard or by an external pedal. As modulators for the phase shift are available of the LFO and the envelope. In addition, the third oscillator is synchronizeable weak or strong to the first oscillator. The pitch of the third oscillator can be likewise steered over the pressure dynamic of the keyboard. The next section is called 'Auxiliary Source' which offers a noise generator with white and pink noise. In addition, an external source can inject here and reworked with the parameters of the Constellation. The filter offers to set adjustment for filter corner frequency and resonance, LFO modulation intensity and an own filter envelope. In addition, the filter can be influenced by the pressure dynamic or a pedal. The filter envelope can optional triggered from the keyboard, the LFO or the external signal source. Over a three-stage switch the influence of the keyboard controlling tension to the filter corner frequency can be adjust, what corresponds to the keyboard tracking of the filter (probably with the positions 0.50 and 100 percent). At long last follows the 'Articulator' which correspond to a VCA (Voltage Controlled Amplifier) with own AD-envelope and sustain counter. The VCA can be also avoided about a bypass switch. The VCA level recorder can be modulated by the pressure dynamic. In addition it is possible, to trigger the VCA-envelope by the LFO, the external signal source or the modulations envelope. In particular the very adaptable modulationsrouting distinguishes the Lyra.


Moog product description: The APOLLO polyphonic synthesizer is at the heart of the ensemble - a true polyphonic synthesizer and electronic piano. The Apollo will play all the notes and produce a wide spectrum of synthesizer or electronic piano sounds. The design of the Apollo - preset voices with variable controls - combines ease of playing with true synthesizer versatility. One new feature will remember and sustain every note played - "superchords" over four octaves can be played: individual articulators and voicing circuits for each key create subtle tonal effects. The Apollo supplies what performers are asking for: synthesizer control over sound with polyphonic capability.

The Moog Apollo with a 48-note keyboard and full polyphony which would have been the core of the Constellation. It was designed by Dave Luce and after many modifications like a longer keyboard and a second VCO (voltage controlled oscillator) for each voice, the Apollo was commercially released as the Polymoog (the 'Polly'). The Apollo was an instrument that created only percussive sounds, because a sustain-level recorder was not planned in the envelopes. Per voice only one oscillator was available. It didn't have the ability to sustain tones.

Dave Luce:
"It was both direct comments and observations made by Rich Walborn, a Moog technician who traveled with ELP for a year, that made it obvious to Moog Music that certain changes needed to be made in the unit. The Apollo was a one-oscillator instrument. It became clear that it needed to have two oscillators, a thicker sound, to cut through. Another thing that Keith suggested, he is being a piano player originally, was that the keyboard have more than 48 notes. If you want a one-note effects machine, 48 keys is enough. But if you want to sit down and play the instrument unaccompanied, you need to have a larger keyboard."

Keith Emerson:
"You know, I helped design that. I spent about a week with Dave Luce in the studio. While I was there I was saying, 'It's good, but it could be better if you do this and this, and add this to it.' So he made some notes and then went back to Buffalo and had the second prototype made up. When I went to Buffalo, I tried it again. All the bumps were out and I said, 'Well, it could be good if you had the knobs in this position.' So he made some more notes, followed those ideas through, and the next thing I'm expecting is to see the end result. You'd think that after working on the instrument I'd get to see it. But the next thing I know, they've sent it to Patrick Moraz in Switzerland. Well, I was a bit upset. After all, after using it on record, helping develop the ideas for the one that was put out on the market, I felt I was involved and it was a bit of a shock when it went off in some different direction. So for a little bit of time I more or less said, 'Screw you,' to it. But Moog Music must have had some reason for it, and I don't feel particularly bitter for it now."


Moog product description: The TAURUS bass synthesizer provides solid bass sounds over a three octave range. Individual contours for loudness and the filter provide flexibility of tonal effect. Two oscillators are provided for parallel intervals and deep percussive sounds. The "glide" and "sustain" features add an unusual new dimension to the bass effects of the CONSTELLATION Ensemble.

The Taurus bass synthesizer, famed for their thunderous sound, is one of Robert Moog's lesser-known creations. Keith Emerson never used the Taurus on tour, as he found he could get an excellent bass sound from the Minimoog. But there is still a significant difference: anyone who regularly uses an analogue synthesizer for bass duties will be well aware of the problems that can be caused by the phasing between two closely-tuned oscillators. When the two waveforms are in phase, the resulting sound is strengthened and becomes louder. Conversely, when the oscillators are out of phase, the sound weakens and the volume drops. This can make the bass content of a track fade in and out with the beating of the oscillators. This effect can of course be ironed out by using a compressor, but with the Taurus, the problem never arises in the first place. The oscillators beat against one another, and give the rich swirl that is so appealing to the ears, but the bass content remains solid and consistent.



Famous users include Mike Rutherford of Genesis who replaced his old Dewtron bass pedals with the Taurus. He would use the Taurus whilst playing 12-string guitar and the sound is evident on many of the post-Gabriel Genesis albums, especially the live album 'Seconds Out'. Fellow band member, Steve Hackett, also used them (and apparently Tony Banks, Genesis' keyboard player). Other users include Chris Squire from Yes, John Paul Jones from Led Zeppelin, Sting from The Police, Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson from Rush, and many more.


These Apollo and Lyra became part of Roger Luther's collection. Maybe Keith Emerson gave them back to Moog Music after the tour in 1974 was done. When Moog went down, Roger kept the keyboards under his care. Later the Apollo and the Lyra were acquired by David Kean's Audities Foundation (photos from the Audities Foundation archives).

Today you can see these unique instruments at the Cantos Music Foundation in Calgary, Canada. They do not work and are in very bad shape. But they may have been fixed by John Leimseider, the tech from California who was hired to fix the keyboards at Cantos. Both the Apollo and Lyra were underneath big drapes showing the Brain Salad face.

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