We’re still trying to make sense of everything that just happened, but we do know one thing: Moogfest was a rare and remarkable gathering. After taking last year off to rethink itself, the festival moved from Asheville to Durham, NC for 2016, where it magnetized a remarkably dynamic roster of artists, bands, thinkers, and explorers. The daytimes were mostly filled with talks and workshops, and the evenings bubbled over with incredible – and surprisingly intimate – performances.
First, the music. We saw Ben Frost, Tim Hecker, and Oneohtrix Point Never, one after the other, attempt to sonically dismantle the historic Carolina Theater (they nearly succeeded). We saw Laurie Anderson narrate delicate stories with her keyboard and electric violin. Sam Aaron livecoded a DJ set using Sonic Pi. Actress moved a crowd at The Durham Armory. And Kode9’s set was guided by a video screen drone navigating an abandoned industrial wasteland. Then there was GZA, Reggie Watts, Dawn of MIDI, Grimes, Son Lux, and sunn O))). Yes, it was a feast.
Moogfest was also a big moment for us as a company. As we prepare to ship the INSTRUMENT 1 to our Kickstarter backers around the world, we’re also moving out of pre-orders and into direct sales to the public. We set up a demo station in Moogfest’s Modular Marketplace, where hundreds of people came to give it a try. Needless to say, there were a lot of smiles.
We also had an opportunity to hold court in the intimate Full Frame Theater, where our founder and CEO, Mike Butera, took the audience on a trip through the theory and design of the INSTRUMENT 1, while our musical ambassadors, Larissa Maestro and Jeremy Bullock, gave musical demonstrations.
We want to offer a special thank you to Kickstarter who were big supporters of our presence at Moogfest. In a very special moment, Kickstarter hosted a Facebook Live unboxing of the INSTRUMENT 1. As fate would have it, the data connection wasn’t so great and thus pixelation prevailed in more than a few moments, but you can watch the stream as archived on Kickstarter’s Facebook page, and it was a great and symbolic moment for us.
Talks and panels
Moogfest is equal parts big sounds and big ideas. There were dozens of talks, panels, discussions, and workshops over the course of the four days, ranging from DIY synth-making to Afrofuturism to design thinking. Google announced a new initiative to see if artificial intelligences can learn to be creative, for goodness sake. Moogfest invited us to contribute to this landscape via a number of venues. Mike gave a talk titled Mastery is Dead, in which he challenged the presiding status hierarchy of music-making, delivering a case for the democratization of musical creativity. The Moogfest audience received Mike’s talk strongly, and there was meaningful and energetic discussion that followed. (We do plan to publish the talk). Later in the weekend Mike joined our friends at IDEO for a panel on design-thinking and creativity, and co-founder Jacob Gordon joined a panel with fellow NEW INC community members, exploring what is means to hack music and media.
We’re absolutely thrilled to see what the Bob Moog Foundation patiently cultivated over the years with Moogfest, and we can only image where the future will take it. It has also been great to see the wider world take notice of the gathering. Forbes did some high-profile pre-coverage. Fast Company filed a provocative piece about Artiphon. And a broad range of publications had exciting things to say about the event as a whole, including: The New York Times, NBC, Pitchfork, The Atlantic, Okayplayer, Motherboard, and more.
It will be fascinating to see how Moogfest evolves, especially in a moment when the likes of The New York Times decide it’s time to stop covering Coachella and Bonnaroo.
Tickets are already on sale for next year. See you there?