Moogfest, a three-day celebration of art and technology, kicks off its first Durham appearance on Thursday, centered on downtown performance venues, hotels and clubs.
Moogfest grew from a one-night celebration in New York in 2004 to a multi-venue festival in Asheville, home of electronic music pioneer Robert Moog and the synthesizer company he founded, Moog Music (Hint: say Moog like vogue, not mood).
Durham leaders, including from the Durham Chamber of Commerce, RTP foundation, American Underground and Duke, along with several area technology companies spent about two years trying to get the festival moved to the Bull City.
Ticketed and non-ticketed festival lectures, demonstrations and performances will be spread from Motorco on Rigsbee Avenue to the Carolina Theatre and the Durham Armory to the 21c Museum Hotel and the American Tobacco Campus.
The Durham community’s involvement in Moogfest is key, said Moogfest CEO Adam Katz, which is why there are free offerings every day, with a day-long, family-oriented program on Saturday at American Tobacco Campus.
Five Duke faculty are on the program:
▪ A 4 p.m. Thursday a performance in the Durham Armory called “Live Processing and Ghost Dancing” builds on a long-term collaboration between Duke’s Martin Brooke, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Thomas F. DeFrantz, a professor of dance who is also chair of Duke’s African and African American Studies Department.
DeFrantz and Brooke have partnered in a multi-year Bass Connections project exploring intersections between dance and technology, which includes incorporating robotics into dance works.
▪ At 10:30 a.m. Friday at the 21c Museum Hotel electrical and computer engineering professor Steven Cummer will talk about acoustic metamaterials printed in 3-D that have the potential to create “acoustic holograms” – projecting a sound field into many physical shapes, and thin-film acoustic cloaking materials that can make an object effectively invisible to sound.
▪ At 4:30 p.m. Friday in the Carolina Theatre’s Fletcher Hall, Mark Anthony Neal, professor of African & African American Studies, will talk with the legendary rapper and science fan GZA, one of the co-founders of the Wu-Tang Clan. Their conversation, “Time Travelling Through Hip Hop,” is a part of Moogfest’s Afrofuturism theme, and may touch on musical sampling as a way for hip-hop to tap into the past while talking about the future, Neal said.
“We’re going to keep it organic and just start talking,” Neal said. “He can handle himself!”
GZA also will perform his music on two nights of the festival.
▪ At noon Saturday, neuroscientist Tobias Overath of the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences will hold a workshop in the 21C Museum Hotel, Gallery 6, about how music is processed in the brain. The workshop will touch on questions such as: Are the brains of musicians different? Is there a physiological basis to musical consonance? How is your brain affected by music?
Katz said Moogfest has not had any cancellations due to North Carolina’s controversial “bathroom bill,” House Bill 2.
“We’ve had overwhelming support from the artists,” he added. “Electronic music culture has always been closely tied to the LGTBQ community, and several of our performers and a keynote speaker are trans.
“Inclusivity and diversity are important for innovation, and we hope this festival will help create a future without regressive, discriminatory laws like HB2.”