The ExitEvent team spent four days capturing all the cool stuff going on in downtown Durham for Moogfest. Below is our recap of day three, but be sure to check out highlights from days one, three and four.
Thanks for following along!
(photo above, credit to Moogfest)
Check out our Facebook album for photos courtesy of Moogfest
Inverse covers Google’s new Magenta release at Moogfest here.
Cool video of day one by the Moogfest video team:
Recap: Speak UP and Be Heard | Films About Artists Changing the World
By Shannon Cuthrell
Artist, film director and former VICE creative director Zena Loxton unveiled two inspiring films to the audience at the Carolina Theatre Friday afternoon, both of which contain highly inspiring individuals and groups working to shift social outcomes in their communities in Africa.
Loxton’s short-form documentaries are part of the Amnesty International Speak UP program that celebrates global changemakers through works of art and film.
Both of the documentaries follow the winners of the 2016 Ambassador of Conscience Award issued by Amnesty International. They feature individuals and groups in Africa who are adopting creativity as a mechanism to demand democracy, human rights and social equity in their country.
Singer and activist Angelique Kidjo of Benin in West Africa (currently living in New York) visits communities throughout Dakar, Senegal to hear stories of girls and women dancers, singers and artists who are using their talents to grow their communities, forming groups where others can exercise their creative expression and, in turn, influence economic and cultural growth in their lives.
The other follows Y’en a marre (Fed Up), a group of journalists in Senegal who decided to use their passion for rap and current events to create songs and music videos to spread to youth around their country. The music contained a message that would inform and encourage people to go out and vote against their president in 2012. The group ultimately met their mission, and the president was outvoted in the election.
These two films reminded me of Durham’s participation in the Afrofuturism movement, one that uplifts a more realistic narrative and image of modern black citizens throughout the world, one that’s loyal to African roots and deeply collaborative in nature.
Recap: In Conversation with Mykki Blanco
By Shannon Cuthrell
Music festival lineups, much reflecting the industry they exist in, are notoriously white, male and straight. Mykki Blanco, a rapper, performance artist and poet from Raleigh, is dismantling that narrative, demanding a spot on the stage and serving as a sort of beacon calling others in the queer community to do so too.
Mykki’s stage persona, beloved by his fans, also translates to his off-stage, independently-produced music, and on Friday afternoon at the Carolina Theatre, he shared how that persona evolved over time and informed his gender identity and expression.
Most importantly, he shared the importance of openness and his calling to communicate his experiences as a queer-identified individual, in and outside of his craft.
This is an identity Mykki says he’s had from a very young age. When he was living in Raleigh (more specifically, Knightdale) as a kid, he felt bummed out by the Southern lifestyle and how it still has a tendency to segregate people. He longed for a place where people could intermix in a sort of utopia.
He eventually moved away to focus on poetry and music in a new setting, and in turn found the utopia he was looking for—a sense of self personally and professionally, within a vibrant community of talented artists who also identified as queer.
Mykki strongly feels that there should be more nonbinary queer people in the music industry, and believes it’s going to take several people in his generation to go out and take industry executive jobs once they retire. Change the system.
That’s why he’s so dedicated to connecting to the people who listen to his music. It was, after all, the voices of the 90s punk movement—like Le Tigre’s Kathleen Hanna—who Mykki first related to in the queer community.
He refers to himself as a “chameleon” when it comes to gender expression. This has manifested in several ways throughout his life, using different pronouns and working to disbar the idea that gender is binary.
Throughout this session, I took notes on what Mykki was saying and thought about how I would write this recap. I was overwhelmed with his contagious energy and way of communicating with people, and how he lit up the room with every joke, comment or story he told.
I had a hard time putting Mykki’s energy into words, let alone compare it to anyone else.
But maybe that’s the whole point. I shouldn’t try and define him, and neither should you. Mykki Blanco cannot be put in a box.
By Amy Huffman
“Open source religion, what the f*** is that?” an organizer of the group “The Church of Space” bluntly posited as he opened the #opensourcereligion session at the Durham Arts Council. The man, who asked to remain anonymous, spent the next hour explaining the #opensourcereligion concept he and his friends hatched over lunch one day.
The group thought that in this era of globalization of ideas and commerce, most religious people already create their own religions by picking and choosing the doctrines from they’ll adhere to from established religions like Christianity, Buddhism and Islam.
He said, “so if belief is a choice, then why don’t we just build something that is funner to choose?”
What the eclectic group of physicists like Marc Fleury and artists like Sheba Love built seems very much in its nascent stages. But the building blocks of their new religion are quantum physics and open source theory. Believing that the external forces of metaphysical space can impact human thoughts, decisions, actions and futures through vibrations and other mechanisms, the group places the science at the core of their religion.
But like scientists, they value iterative, experimental processes and thus believe it should be open source—where anyone can add new ideas and the religion is constantly iterating—drawing inspiration from the software industry.
While the man spent the hour explaining the thought process behind the church of space, left out were details like how one actually follows the faith, how it creates purpose and meaning in one’s life, and whether or not it offers salvation.
The Church of Space believes its new religion has the potential to become a worldwide peace-maker, with the organizer saying that when other countries and religions adopt it or apply the same transformative thought to their own religions, war would be eradicated.
And yet the stage and the talk were littered with symbols of death like a skull figurine and a podium attached to a statue of what looked like a broken man’s skeleton squatting. The presenter repeatedly mentioned the “good fit” the religion would have with the Illuminati and occult sects, both known for their belief in conspiracies, the paranormal and mysticism.
Just like a Moog synthesizer bends sound into new sounds, so too this church bends current beliefs into its own self-made religion. And yet, the result is nothing new. Humans have bent the principles and truths found in Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and all the other established religions for centuries to serve their own purposes, and based on what I witnessed, this group is no different.
Recap: Conversation with Michael Stipe
By Shannon Cuthrell
When R.E.M. frontman and now artist/producer Michael Stipe stepped on stage at the Carolina Theatre, I felt an almost immediate draw to the way he carried himself.
I later understood in the talk that he is an artist that openly acknowledges that his art is often a direct response to the people he meets, gets to know, and establishes a lifelong friendship bond with. In many ways, the wisdom and understanding that I noticed in Stipe’s talk was thanks to the people in his life who’ve influenced him.
All of this was clear when he began talking about a man named Jeremy Ayers, a fellow Athens, Georgia artist and close friend to Stipe before the R.E.M. days. Ayers was a personality that continually enamored Stipe, an old friend who would weave in and out of his life up until Ayers died last year.
Ayers’ life inspired a never-before-seen installation of the man freely dancing scored to music made with Moog instruments. Called “Jeremy Dance”, it’s hanging at American Underground @Main.
Stipe designed the installation out of old film tapes of Ayers dancing. In a compelling way, he dances into a sort of succinct marriage of movement on the screen.
Though Ayers died last year—after Stipe had completed the installation—his influence continues. This installation is the first of many more. Stipe has already completed three more similar audiovisual displays, with different portraits.
Though he never implicitly identified in this way, Stipe’s storytelling reminded me of how the Beats of the ’60s tell stories—a group of innate artists of decades past, who cherished lifelong friendship, collaborative art and uniqueness. In many ways, the Beats were ahead of their time.
Perhaps that’s why people like Stipe still create art today and continue to resonate.
More on how his installation came to life in this piece by Vice.
Recap: Grassroots Musical Activism
By Laura Baverman
I sat in on this session mostly to hear more about Pierce Freelon’s (left) plans to run for Mayor of Durham. The musician, professor, activist and entrepreneur announced his candidacy in April and has hopes of taking an inclusive approach to city politics. He’s never run for office before, but he certainly has experience bringing the community together.
The founder of Beat Making Lab, a web series and physical space in Chapel Hill, opened Blackspace before Moogfest last year, providing a space and programming for Durham kids interested in music-making, coding and entrepreneurship. He also counts as an inspiration and role model Chuck Davis, the legendary founder of Durham’s African American Dance Ensemble who passed away over the weekend.
Freelon says he’ll add a new mantra for Durham City Council if elected: “Peace, love and respect for everybody.” Those are Davis’s famous words.
“That should be a mandate for anyone serving the community,” Freelon says.
All four Durham musicians spoke eloquently and thoughtfully about the role of music in public discourse. Most of the artists got involved in politics and activism after Amendment One passed in 2012, making same-sex marriages unconstitutional. Though the law was eventually overturned in federal court, the artists became fired up as they realized the state of North Carolina was not as progressive as they thought or witnessed in Durham.
The result has been more collaboration and efforts like adding a DJ to an anti-HB2 rally on UNC’s campus and the creation of Party Illegal, a monthly dance party all about experimentation and bridging divides.
Freelon had his own example of using music to help eliminate stereotypes—during a recent cipher on CCB Plaza, he welcomed a homeless man to participate. The man might not have rapped when he entered the center of the circle, as is customary, but he offered up another form of inspiration. Pointing to the sky, he made the group aware of a lunar rainbow happening overhead, which inspired the rest of the evening’s raps.
“He gave us a blessing—look up,” Freelon told the Moogfest crowd. “We had a debrief and talked about how he had the dopest part of the cipher. That connection wouldn’t have been possible in another circumstance.”
Recap: Pub Talk on Mobile Technology & Healthcare
By Amy Huffman
The access doctors now have to patient health data through mobile devices is revolutionary for the medical field, told Ryan Shaw, director of the Duke Health Innovation Lab, to a crowd gathered at Fullsteam Brewery.
What would have taken years to retrieve from patients before mobile devices, now takes days. And he predicts even more data will soon be available to healthcare professionals through the sophistication of wearable devices and their ever-increasing ability to connect to Electronic Health Records (EHRs). It offers the potential for a more precise and personalized healthcare system in just a few years time.
So far, Shaw’s research indicates that the data collected by mobile devices can be useful in designing successful programs and health interventions. His team has created applications to help patients lose weight, quit smoking and even manage their diabetes with data collected from mobile and wearable devices.
But even with the plethora of data now available, using it to tailor health interventions to each person is still in its nascent stages. Shaw explained that while data from wearables like a FitBit can integrate with EHRs today, healthcare organizations are still learning how to integrate it consistently and efficiently. And the doctors and scientists are still figuring out what to do with all the data.
While data analytic platforms do exist, like Raleigh-based Roundtable Analytics, the platforms are still new and haven’t been adopted widely. Nor do analytic solutions yet exist for all types of data entering into EHRs from mobile and wearable devices.
Still, innovations in the field are compelling. Patients can expect to ingest edible sensors that help monitor their medicinal intake, interact with a physician via an ipad attached to a Segway, and even receive bedside care from a robot while recovering from surgery in their hospital in the near future.
It may sound outlandish, but Shaw and his team are already dabbling in the creation of all of these tools. He even played a video of the robot he and computer science students at Duke built to deliver medicine and juice to a test-patient.
But even though the innovations are already being developed, it could be years before patients see them in local hospitals. As with all new healthcare innovations, testing and more testing will need to be done before any new technology is adopted widely. But one thing is certain, Shaw and the many other digital health-focused entrepreneurs in the Triangle will lead the movement towards a more digital future for the healthcare sector.
Recap: Conversation with Dave Smith and Michael Calore
By Amy Huffman
Grammy award winning musician, serial entrepreneur and renowned instrument designer Dave Smith isn’t a typical entrepreneur, and throughout an hour-long conversation with WIRED Editor Michael Calore, Smith’s atypical approach to designing and iterating on new technologies and companies was evident.
Smith fell into the business in the late 70s after deciding he’d rather go to school to become an engineer than be drafted for the “thing called Vietnam.” Post-graduation, he stumbled upon a Minimoog and fell in love with the technology. He even took out a loan to buy one. When Moog wouldn’t answer his letters asking for additional features, he took his Minimoog apart and reassembled it to make his own version of a synthesizer.
After making different iterations of his own synthesizers for a few years, he forever changed the industry when he built the Prophet 5 synthesizer, the first with a microprocessor built in. Calore noted that all synthesizers built since then can be traced back to the Prophet 5 since most now come standard with a microprocessor.
But at the time Smith believed the addition was “obvious and simple” and that it just seemed like a “cool thing.”
Throughout his career spanning 40 years, it’s the value of making obvious, simple, yet cool instruments that has driven Smith’s businesses and innovations. He also designs for longevity.
“If you buy one of our instruments, you can use it for the next 40 years and I can say that with a straight face because some of our Prophet 5s that are 30 years old are selling for $4,000-$5,000,” he told the crowd.
After scaling his first company Sequential Circuits to 150+ employees and selling it to Yamaha Corporation in 1987, Smith now takes a much different approach to running Dave Smith Instruments.
He doesn’t employ a sales or marketing team, and doesn’t intend to scale or produce more synthesizers than DSI does today. The team doesn’t innovate on a typical production calendar or try to meet external deadlines like consumer product showcases. Instead, “it gets done when it gets done.”
There aren’t one- or five-year plans or future goals set. And a key differentiator from most startups today, is that DSI designs what it wants to design without surveying consumers, marketing specialists, or outside experts or considering the competition. Preferring a Steve Jobs-like approach, the team designs features and products that produces the best sound possible and trusts musicians will like them.
As Smith says, “we keep the company small and controlled and have fun making instruments.”
If you missed the talk with Smith today, you can catch him Saturday or Sunday. He’s sticking around to offer a masterclass on using the polysynth DSI Prophet-6 on Saturday and a talk on Sunday detailing the history and lessons learned from his 45 years of designing synthesizers.