Cornell ReSounds concert features Moog keyboard, new instruments

An Oct. 24 concert in Barnes Hall will feature a rebuilt experimental keyboard originally created in the 1960s by David Rothenberg and Robert Moog Ph.D. ’65. It will be the first time the instrument will be played in public. The concert begins at 7 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

The Rothenberg-Moog 31-tone keyboard will be played by Xak Bjerken, professor of music in the College of Arts and Sciences. The program will include new music composed for the keyboard by Elizabeth Ogonek, associate professor of music (A&S); and Jesse Jones, Mark Stewart and other members of the EZRA quartet, who will also be featured at the concert. 

That group, a collective of classical, jazz, rock, and bluegrass musicians, is focused on the creation of genre-crossing and style-inclusive new music.

The concert is part of the Cornell Resounds project, funded by a New Frontier Grant from the College of Arts & Sciences. Some of the new instruments created through the project will also be featured at the concert.

Bjerken categorizes the music he'll play on the new keyboard as “bluegrass meets experimental improvisation." The keyboard contains 478 keys and was designed by Rothenberg, a musical and mathematical theorist who was interested in pattern perception. Rothenberg hired Moog to build the keyboard and the associated synthesizer, but it never worked properly.

The instrument was donated to Cornell by Rothenberg’s widow, Suhasini Sankaran, and has been rebuilt and rewired by Travis Johns, a composer and instrument builder who was a visiting lecturer in music in the fall of 2022. He was helped in the project by graduate student Christopher Rooney, undergraduate Damon Hollenbeck ’25 and recent graduate J Nation ’23.

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Provided A sampling of the instruments that Jesse Jones built for the Cornell ReSounds project.