It’s that time of the year again, and Moogfest is returning to Durham for its 15th anniversary at the end of April, running Thursday, April 25th, through Sunday, the 28th. Dedicated to the advancement and celebration of music, the arts, and technology, the multi-day panorama that is Moogfest brings with it an exciting line-up of performers, panelists, avant-garde composers, experimentalists, techno minimalists, Afrofuturists, sound designers, frizzle-haired mad scientists (ok maybe not), philosophers, and many other inspiring people.
It’s going to be vast. Think of this blog, then, as your go-to guide to help navigate the festival. So if you’re ready, let’s dive in and explore 10 of the coolest things not to miss at Moogfest 2019. (But of course, there are many more than 10.)
And if you don’t have tickets yet, you can visit https://moogfest.frontgatetickets.com/.
1. Live Music!
This year there will be, in total, more than 40 musical performances at Moogfest. Among those not to miss are Depeche Mode’s Martin Gore, New Zealand singer Kimbra, GAS, Thomas Dolby, William Basinki, ambient experimentalist Tim Hecker, and R&B futurist Ouri. Plus, recently added to the lineup are two musical superstars and N.W.A. members Questlove and Arabian Prince.
Now, I get it. You’re probably saying “Who the heck is GAS?!” (That, or, “Omg, GAS? I love GAS! I listen to GAS every morning.”)
Either way, the lineup is legit; and it features some of the best musicians out there right now. To help you in your quest of musical discovery as you wander from stage to stage at the festival, the masterminds behind the curtain at Moogfest have assembled a Spotify playlist that can be found here. So go ahead. Put it on next time you go running, or when you’re working, or when you’re lying on the floor with headphones in and wish to be transported into another world.
For more specific information on scheduling and performance locations click here.
2. The Modular Marketplace
Interactive music technology exhibitions will take place in the Modular Marketplace and are free and open to the public. Sounds like it’s from outer space? Well, it could be (especially with all of the blinking lights, wires, and synths involved).
In reality, the Modular Marketplace is “a bazaar featuring the top designers of boutique music tech tools and their latest creations where attendees of all experiences levels can explore electronics up close.”
The Modular Marketplace will be located on the American Tobacco campus (in Bay 7) and will be open for the duration of the festival, from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. each day.
This 360° photograph (above) was taken at last year’s Modular Marketplace, image courtesy of Beaumonde Interactive Marketing Agency.
3. Engineer Workshops: Synthesizer Building
While this is one of Moogfest’s more exclusive events, those with Engineer Workshop passes will go between the wires and circuit boards to build their own, limited-edition, unreleased and out-of-this-world analog Moog synthesizers. Participants will work alongside Moog engineers over the course of two days to craft their musical spaceships in addition to gaining deeper knowledge of the world of electronic instruments. (No experience necessary.)
According to @Moogfest on Twitter:
This year’s unreleased Moog design explores how electronic instruments can create an analog of the human experience, speaking directly to the way in which physical circuits can resonate within oneself, creating a ‘Spectral Shift’…
4. The Annual Sleep Concert, conducted by William Basinki.
Yes, this is music played while you sleep. Like a dream shaman, William Basinki, composer and musician known for his ambient worlds, will guide attendant sleepers through realms uncharted; where purple moons reign high, through layers of clouds and stardust, for eight hours, syncing brainwaves, with calm soundwaves washing like water music.
This year’s sleep concert will take place in 21C on Friday, April 26th. It starts at 12:00 a.m. precisely and wakes up eight hours later at 8 in the brightening morning.
5. Keynote Speeches + Other Creative Discussions
Speeches, panel discussion, creative interviews, you name it, these events are the flowers on the tree of Moogfest. They are the synthesized ideas presented, contextualized, and fresh. The undercurrent and framework of creative work. Most of all, creative discussions and keynote speeches reveal a little more clearly the artist behind the veil, they dispel myths, illumine secrets about form, reinforce the importance of what we do, and give audiences something new to ponder.
Speakers this year will include: Thomas Dolby in conversation with Pulitzer finalist Jason Leopold; Martin Gore of Depeche Mode; Mute Records founder, DJ, and producer, Daniel Miller; Wolfgang Voigt of GAS (pictured above) in conversation with The Field; and William Basinski in conversation with Craig Leon and Kelly Moran.
For more information on scheduling, please visit: https://www.moogfest.com/schedule.
6. Durham Culture + Community
Durham, just like Moogfest, is a hub of new forms of artistic expression and technological advancement – a catalyst in itself – a haven for people of all walks of life. Part of what makes any festival so thrilling is the pulse of where it is. The place, more than just a space.
Spread out across downtown, from the American Tobacco Campus to The Armory to the Carolina Theatre and elsewhere, Moogfest taps into the culture of Durham; their essences fuse. Both diverse, both forward-thinking and community-embracing, even walking between shows or speeches during the festival becomes an event in itself. Plus, there will be food trucks and the usual coffee shops or restaurants to gather by.
7. What is Democracy? A film by Astra Taylor
Astra Taylor is a filmmaker, writer, political organizer and recent director of the documentary film What is Democracy? Film screening and a panel discussion following will take place on Saturday, April 27th, from 3:30 to 6 p.m. at the Full Frame Theatre on the American Tobacco Campus.
Topics explored in the film, and questions addressed in the panel discussion afterwards, include: Who gets to participate in democracy? Can democracy exist in an era of concentrated wealth? How can people reclaim power that is supposed to be theirs?
So don’t miss it, really. Discussions like these are so important for us to have as we tread into an unsure future in a world on the brink of chaos.
8. Masterclasses and Artist-Led Workshops
In addition to creative discussion and keynote speeches, there will be masterclasses and experiential workshops throughout.
Topics – as presented by several performers, technologists, and leading academics – will cover anything from circuit bending and sound manipulation to programming controllers, software/hardware interfacing techniques, building your own oscillator, and more.
Here are a few highlights to look out for on the official schedule, as detailed on Moogfest’s website:
Los Angeles-based experimental electronic musician Baseck will lead a workshop on how to turn any sound into a percussive beat. Spellling will hold a workshop on overcoming creative blocks in the style of Eno’s ‘Oblique Strategies.’ Ela Minus will conduct a workshop about the process for live mixing outside the computer and making electronic music more human.
9. Long-form Performances
Similar in nature to the sleep concert, minus the sleeping part, several musicians will be presenting multi-hour music sets meant to immerse audience members in their world, like a trance… almost. A Place to Bury Strangers, Richard Devine, and Greg Fox will each be presenting four-hour performances. These will be hosted at 21C.
For further details on scheduling, click here.
10. Free Programming!
Because who doesn’t love free!? Especially when it’s not at the cost of quality and takes place during a beautiful spring afternoon. Festivities of the free variety (in addition to the Modular Marketplace) will take place on Saturday, April 27th, at the American Tobacco Campus. Featured acts include singer and beat-making songwriter Suzi Analogue; Dr. Dre collaborator and native to Raleigh, Mez; RP Boo; and electronic thrash trio Fartbarf.
From the press release:
The ATC stage will also feature the Modular on the Spot picnic, an outdoor modular synth performance co-founded in Los Angeles by modular synthesist and skate photographer Eric ‘Rodent’ Cheslak, which will include a rotating cast of musicians playing for four hours.
So in case you missed the memo and haven’t done so already, (don’t worry we’ve all been there), go forth with your best feathered quill or number 2 pencil and mark your calendars for Moogfest. It runs April 25th to April 28th. And if something caught your eye in the above Top 10, just maybe, I’ll see you there.
Once again, for tickets, please visit https://moogfest.frontgatetickets.com/.