Lost Eaton-Moog Synth Keyboard

Composer John Eaton is waiting for someone to develop a “lost” instrument, the Eaton-Moog Multiple-Touch-Sensitive Keyboard.

The keyboard design was a collaboration between Eaton and Robert Moog, and features keys with enhanced capabilities, enabling new methods of touch control of synthesizers.

The [device] is “the world’s most sensitive musical instrument next to the human voice,” according to Eaton. “Playing it is a kind of combination of playing a a very sensitive stringed instrument
and playing a keyboard instrument.”

The keys on the 49-note keybaord respond to five motions: the distance a key is depressed; the finger’s front and back position and motion on each key; the finger’s side-to-side position and motion
on each key; the total area a flattened finger covers on each key; and pressure on a key after it is depressed fully.

These five, fully independent controls send signals in digital streams of numbers to a computer, which routes the signals to affect any possible aspect of musical continuity desired–loudness;
vibrato; tremolo; reverb; tone color or instrumental change; the speed, pitch, and any other application that can be dealt with by a modern sound synthesizer or sound-generating computer program.

The prototype now lives in Eaton’s attic, according to an article in the NJ State Ledger.

“It’s very difficult to play. But an instrument should be difficult to play. That’s the only way to master musical materials, by overcoming these difficulties,” says Eaton, 70, surrounded in his cramped attic studio by upright pianos, ancient computers and programs and scores from his 20 operas.

“Whenever he had any spare time in his workshop he went down and worked on it,” Ileana Grams Moog, Moog’s widow, says of the unfinished keyboard.

Her husband dreamed of an instrument that was “almost like a magical extension” of the musician. “So if you were talented enough, you could push the limit of whatever you wanted to do, so you wouldn’t feel any limits,” she says.

If anyone has additional information an the Eaton-Moog Multiple-Touch-Sensitive Keyboard, please contact us to let us know.

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