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Gershon Kingsley, Moog Synthesizer Pioneer, Dies at 97

by Ace Damon
Gershon Kingsley, Moog Synthesizer Pioneer, Dies at 97

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The composer of & # 39; Popcorn & # 39; was also Emmy winner, Obie and Clio nominated for Tony.

Composer, conductor and electronic music pioneer Gershon Kingsley, who wrote the top 10 hits "Popcorn" and played a key role in popularizing synthesizer sound, died December 10 in New York. He was 97 years old.

Emmy Award-winning composer recorded "Popcorn" in 1969, but it was a remake of Hot Butter that reached ninth place on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1972 and first in at least six other countries. In 2005, Crazy Frog released its version, with the song once again reaching number 1 in several countries. In 2018, Kingsley released a 12 ”yellow vinyl of their trademark music for Record Store Day.

Kingsley, who also composed "Baroque Hoedown," the theme song for the Disney Parks Main Street Electrical parade, was born in Germany in 1922. He came to New York in 1946 and later attended the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music.

When Kingsley returned to New York in 1955, he became music director of a Broadway production of The Entertainer starring Lawrence Olivier. In 1958, he was nominated for a Tony Award for best musical direction in Ma Tante's Broadway hit La Plume. He has directed and organized several Broadway and Off-Broadway productions, including Porgy & Bess, Jamaica, Ernest in Love, The Cradle Will Rock and Fly Blackbird. Kingsley has won two Obie Awards for his theatrical work off Broadway.

In the mid-1950s, Kingsley was also musical director of Robert Joffrey Ballet, Josephine Baker and the acclaimed television special The World of Kurt Weill starring Lotte Lenya. As a composer, Kingsley also focused on both religious and secular theatrical works – inspired by Jewish and Hebrew texts – including Shabbat for Today and The Fifth Cup, which were nationally broadcast and played extensively in the US. He also wrote the popular choir hymn "Pastor Me, Lord."

In 1966, while working as an organizer of Vanguard Records, Kingsley collaborated with French composer Jean-Jacques Perrey on a highly experimental pop album, The In Sound From Way Out, which combined dozens of intricate design tape loops with studio musicians to I live to produce a whole new sound that pushed the envelope of modern music, and Kingsley soon became one of Moog's leading sound artists. In 1969, he released an album titled Music to Moog By, which received rave reviews and has since become a classic among Moog connoisseurs.

In 1970, Kingsley formed the First Moog Quartet, a set of four synthesizers that was a pioneering effort to bring electronic music to classical venues. The group made history when they performed the first live multimedia concert of synthesized music ever at Carnegie Hall.

Shortly after the show, Arthur Fiedler, then conductor of the Boston Pops, asked Kingsley to write a work for the synthesizer quartet and symphony orchestra. The "Moogo Concert," as it was known, premiered in 1971 at the Boston Symphony Hall and was televised nationwide.

Kingsley also wrote extensively for television and movies. His music for the PBS WGBH logo continues to be used today, and his work has won an Emmy Award for music from A New Voice in the Desert and two Clio Awards for featured songs in TV commercials. He wrote musical themes for the American game show The Joker's Wild and several German television programs.

In the 1980s, he released several New Age albums. In 1992, Kingsley composed two separate works to commemorate the 500th anniversary of Columbus's trip to America: Cristobal, a musical performed at New York's Union Square Theater; and Tierra, an opera performed at the Gasteig Concert Hall in Munich. Voices from the Shadow, a play based on holocaust poetry, opened in 1998 at Lincoln Center in New York.

In the 2000s, Kingsley finished work on several projects, including a new version of "Popcorn", released on the Beastie Boys' Grand Royal label, and "Selma", a cycle of songs inspired by Selma Meerbaum-Eisinger's holocaust poetry. One of Kingsley's last works, Raoul, on Raoul Wallenberg, premiered in New York in 2004 and was produced in Bremen, Germany in 2008.

The survivors include their two daughters, Melinda and Alisse, their son-in-law and grandson.

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