Blackspace and Star Wars

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The much-anticipated art and technology festival known as Moogfest takes over downtown Durham May 19-22. We're updating regularly during the festival with photos, stories and other updates. Day three is below, and here are day one and day two updates.

Saturday 5/21 

Jaron Lanier

One of more than 2,000 instruments in Jaron Lanier's Silicon Valley-area home is the khene, a Laotian mouth organ that he says influenced many modern day instruments. Like many of his public appearances, he began his keynote address at Moogfest with a performance of the bamboo instrument. 

He went on to discuss today's political environment, his dislike of social media and his fears of artificial intelligence (Does it know so much about us that it informs what we do, stifling creativity and exploration?), peppering in stories from throughout the history of computing, the Internet and virtual reality, a field he helped to pioneer. He left the audience with the request that they use and view technology for its intended purposes of collaboration, connection and expression, versus the zero sum game that it tends to ignite today.

Jaron Lanier
Jaron Lanier is a musician, technologist and virtual reality pioneer. He gave the keynote address Saturday during Moogfest 2016.
Jaron Lanier music
Jaron Lanier started his talk at Moogfest with a performance using one of the oldest known musical instruments, a Laotian mouth organ known as the khene.
Introducing the final keynote at Moogfest was the festival's creative director Emmy Parker, who commented that Durham's propensity for tolerance is what drew Moogfest to its new home. Even the real estate developers talked about inclusivity, she said.

Emmy Parker at Moogfest
Emmy Parker is a Moogfest creative director who works for Moog Music in Asheville. She opened the final keynote address by commenting on Durham's tolerance and inclusivity, which made it the perfect place for Moogfest 2016, and now 2017.

"Can You Remember the Future?"

By Jon Mareane
Diversity, inclusivity and tolerance were front and center at this weekend’s Moogfest technology and music festival, and for some of us, that meant an introduction to a new term: Afrofuturism
Afrofuturism was one of nine key content themes at Moogfest. But even though several workshops, demonstrations and discussions touched on the topic, one particular panel did the best job of explaining and debating it. 
Kimberly Drew, community manager at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and digital tastemaker, moderated the lineup of heavy hitters of the hip hop world in their discussion entitled “Can You Remember the Future?” on Saturday inside of the Durham Armory. 
International hip hop star and entertainer Reggie Watts, artist and actress Janelle Monae, house artist DJ Hieroglyphic Being, and the twin brothers Taiwo and Kehinde Hassan who produce under the name Christian Rich were all in attendance to discuss what Afrofuturism is, the state of this movement and whether Afrofuturism is really “a thing” at all. 

Read the rest here, and enjoy some pics of Watts's performance on the American Tobacco Campus below.

Reggie Watts at Moogfest
Reggie Watts performed on the American Tobacco Campus Saturday evening during Moogfest. Credit: Jon Mareane

Reggie Watts and Jon Mareane at Moogfest

Electronic Music for Children and Experimental Adults with DJ Lance Rock and Yo Gabba Gabba!

By Jon Mareane
DJ Lance Rock of Yo Gabba Gabba! and his vaguely anthropomorphic toys-come-to-life friends Plex and Muno took the stage Saturday under the iconic Lucky Strike water tower on the American Tobacco Campus. 
The sun had come out to shine just before the beginning of the show, and the green was filled with children and exhausted looking adults searching for somewhere soft to sit and be entertained. 
In what seemed a strange move, DJ Lance Rock was joined by renowned thereminist Dorit Chrysler. Chrysler started the show with a brief tutorial of how a theremin works, and some of the history behind it. While Chrysler is both charming and incredibly talented, she launched into some heavy and disturbing soundscapes, the second of which she described as evocative of a “giant robot landing on earth.” 

She proved herself a capable musician, but the song was horrifying. While the adults may have been taken aback by the strange sounds coming from the Chrysler, the children didn’t seem to mind. They ran around on the grass waiting impatiently for the brigade of costumed characters to rush the stage. 
As someone both too old to watch Yo Gabba Gabba! and too young to have kids that do, seeing the children and adults alike dance and sing to these songs they’ve no doubt heard dozens of times was a strange and almost surreal experience. 
Far from more calm or cerebral children's shows like Sesame Street, the Yo Gabba Gabba! live experience was all about loud noises, vibrant colors and repetitive lyrics and dance moves to keep children engaged. One particular song called “Hold Still” had the crown in a fury. Watch this and multiply that by about 200-300 children to understand the kineticism and clamor on the green. 

Yo Gabba Gabba! Crowd at American Tobacco
The Yo Gabba Gabba! show gathered a crowd of several hundred kids and parents on the American Tobacco Campus during Moogfest.
Despite my unfamiliarity with the show and its popularity, I walked away extremely impressed with DJ Lance Rock. Anyone who can get a horde of tired, hot and festival-worn children and adults on their feet screaming and dancing deserves a badge of respect. 
Any kids or parents who enjoyed Chrysler's wizardry on the theremin should be sure to check out the KidCoolThereminSchool workshop tomorrow at 10 A.M. at the 21c Museum Hotel.

DJ Lance Rock of Yo Gabba Gabba!
DJ Lance Rock of Yo Gabba Gabba! loves on fans of all ages at Moogfest 2016. Credit: Amy Huffman/ExitEvent

Beats and Star Wars with Blackspace

Below, see photos from a workshop by the beat-making lab known as Blackspace, where beats, Star Wars and recordings from kids were made into a song. Another Blackspace workshop focused on the history of Durham's Black Wall Street. A Blackspace Kickstarter campaign went live this weekend to fund Blackspace's new headquarters in American Underground @Market. 

Blackspace and Star Wars
Durham's kid-focused beat making lab called Blackspace integrates beats, Star Wars and recordings from kids into a song in front of a full house at Moogfest. Credit: Amy Huffman/ExitEvent
Blackspace and Star Wars 2
Blackspace founder Pierce Freelon integrates beats, Star Wars and recordings from kids into a song in front of a full house at Moogfest. Credit: Amy Huffman/ExitEvent

Check out our day two recap here.

And our day one recap here.