Written By Haley Billue – Photos by Hillery Terenzi
When you think ‘MOOG’, what comes to mind? Those cool little new wave music synthesizers with all the knobs and sliders and patch cables that have been the bastion of electronic musicians for decades now. Bob Moog was a pioneer of electronic music technology and, low and behold, he has his own annual festival aptly titled Moogfest…
What is Moogfest? Most people think it’s full of DJs and electronic musicians doing what they do best: making music. And, yes, it is all that but so much more. Let’s take a look shall we?
This was my first trip to Moogfest, a festival that has long been held in Asheville, North Carolina home of the Moog Museum (The Moogseum as it is called), Bob Moog Foundation, and Moog Music Factory. That’s a lot of Moog for one city. Maybe a little too much Moog because this is the first year Durham, North Carolina has hosted the festival.
Let’s touch the surface and see what we find…
On Thursday evening the first exhibit we stumbled into (literally) was the ‘Realiti’ Interactive Environment brought to us by the musician Grimes. It gives the participants the ability to remix the track ‘Realiti’ using motion sensitive nylon membranes over the sample sensors. As the participant passes their hand over the membrane the sensor tracking translates that into different sounds and visuals. Pretty cool, right?
Next we headed inside the Carolina Theater for the North American Screening of ‘Lunar Orbit’, a feature documentary that follows the creative history of The Orb by filmmaker Patrick Buchanan. It was an inspirational piece of film work that enlightened us to The Orb’s beginnings as the forerunner of the modern ambient movement. In the following Q&A after the film, Alex Patterson described himself not as a creator as much as a conduit for sound. He collects all manner of audible stimulation, laying them out for Thomas Fehlmann to sew, alter and combine into a totally new environment. The film gives an intimate look at the friendship and symbiotic relationship that has become the twenty-five year experiment that is The Orb.
We wrapped our night out enjoying artists Floating Points and Blood Orange at the Motorco Park.
Friday we hit the ground running with a performance by the Cyborg Foundation’s co-founder, Moon Ribas. In her Moogfest bio, the foundation is described as “an international organization that aims to help people become cyborgs, defend cyborg rights, and promote cyborgism as an artistic and social movement.” Moon has two implants in her body which sense seismic activity in real time in her attempt to connect to the movement of the earth itself. The Seismic Performance gives her a way to share the stimuli she experiences through her implants with the use of a drum. She has hopes to expand her sensitivity to experience the seismic activity that occurs on the moon itself. She and her partner, Neil Harbisson, at The Cyborg Foundation will soon be launching a company called Cyborg Nest where individuals can apply to be augmented with technology that will provide ultra-perception beginning with a magnetic sensor that can be implanted to give the user the sense of magnetic north much like a compass. They will begin to research and provide additional augmentation that will be available to the public. These are currently in development and promise to be progressive tools in expanding human sensory perception in the future.
Next we had to bring it down a notch because the idea of cyborganisms becoming a reality was pretty intense information that early in the day so we tripped on over to the next tract on the docket: Time Travelling with Hop Hop featuring performer GZA of Wu Tang Clan and Duke professor Mark Anthony Neal. One fascinating thing about Moogfest is the level and quantity of relevant discussions about science and how creativity and technology exist in a relationship that crosses cultural lines and expands the consciousness of all who participate. Science is for everyone. The moon and the planets and the math that holds everything together are not only an inspiration to artists far and wide but it provides a stable frame for expanding ideas into the unknown. So what did I take away from this panel exactly? Well GZA is going to drop a pretty dope record he recorded in Paris with Vangelis this year called Dark Matter. He’s also buddies with Neil deGrasse Tyson. Expletive science, people. Moving on…
We capped off the day with performances from Health, Miike Snow, Grimes, and the iconic Gary Numan.
Saturday we both split up after a panel called ‘Can You Remember the Future?’ featuring Reggie Watts, Mykki Blanco, Chuck Lightning, Janelle Monae and mediator Kimberly Drew. They discussed what being a ‘Afrofuturist’ means to them and how the label defines and directs their thoughts as role models for the next generation of black creatives.
After this we headed to the Merge Records pop-up record store and then divided our efforts. One of us headed to the experimental workshop for children and adults alike with DJ Lance Rock of Yo Gabba Gabba, Bootsy Collins, Mark Mothersbaugh and more while I head to the theater to take in ADULT.’s live soundtrack performance and screening of their film work The Three Grace(s) Triptych.
Saturday was also a blur of food trucks and casual strolling through The Modular Marketplace, Mission Control’s interactive environment and a free performance given by Reggie Watts at the American Tobacco Campus. It ended with a riveting performance by Sunn O))) under the full moon at Motorco Park and The Orb performing their brand of organic ambient house music live at the Armory.
There are so many choices when it comes to Moogfest. With tracts labeled transhumanism, afrofuturism, as well as’ hynotique scéances’, cognitive DJ battles, kabbalistic synthesizer performances and interspecies collaboration installations there was plenty to sink your teeth into. My mind is effectively expanded beyond Mr. Moog’s magic synthesizer into the larger picture that science is happening now and creativity is everywhere. Technology can be measured, clipped, copied, pasted, tracked and shared. Let Moogfest show you how.