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Moogfest brings innovative music festival to Durham

Despite its up-and-coming technology, music and art scenes, Durham doesn’t exactly seem like it would be the perfect location for the next Coachella—and it’s not; because this May, the Bull City will be hosting an event that could be another great musical experience: Moogfest.

The festival, which started in 2004, celebrates Dr. Robert Moog, who is regarded as one of the founding fathers of electronic music and whose invention of various technology tools for artists has helped to unite the fields of engineering and music. This year, the festival will take place from May 19 to 22 and will be spread out across multiple venues throughout Durham.

“It’s not just a music festival—Moogfest is a reimagining of the music festival and tech conference: the synthesis of music, art and technology,” said Marisa Brickman, the director of Moogfest. “By day, Moogfest presents a mind-expanding conference about creativity, technology and the future. By night, it presents performances by pioneers in electronic music alongside pop and avant-garde experimentalists of today.”

The daytime events will feature a wide range of programming, from master classes and panel discussions to hackathons and durational performances and screenings.

Some of this year’s events include a talk entitled “The Future of Creativity” given by Martine Rothblatt, the author of “Virtually Human: The Promise—and the Peril—of Digital Immortality,” as well as an interactive pop-up called Modular Marketplace where participants can experience the next generation of musical devices and meet their designers.

Moogfest’s daytime programming is not like that of a typical tech conference.

“We’re teaching you how to turn code into art, how to take data and make visualizations, how to sonify plants,” Brickman said.  “The topics for conversation—’Technoshamanism,’ ‘Art & AI,’ ‘Hacking Sound (Systems)’—these are not your usual ‘conference’ or ‘music festival’ fodder.”

Moogfest’s nighttime lineup of electronic artists lives up to the standard set by its equally as intruiging daytime programming. This year, some of the top electronic music artists will be performing, including Odesza, Grimes, Miike Snow and Blood Orange will be performing. Local artists such as Nick Sanborn’s Made of Oak and Mykki Blanco will also be highlighted.

“The music really crosses genres and age groups,” Brickman said. “There really is something for everyone, but we’ve curated it very specifically by venue and by day.”

Although this event has been around for over ten years, 2016 marks the first year Moogfest will be held in Durham.  Previous festivals have been held in New York City and Asheville, N.C.

“Durham is a city widely regarded for innovation, entrepreneurship and its progressive reputation. With so many neighboring universities and a burgeoning tech scene, it’s a great fit for our long-term goals,” Brickman said. “We really hope that Moogfest can shine a light on what’s happening in Durham, embrace the talent and culture that exists here and continue to build an event and a business that is recognized around the world.”

Moogfest has also partnered with Duke University and the Duke Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative to create a portion of the daytime programming and will provide student leaders the opportunity to help with the planning and execution of Moogfest starting in the 2016-17 academic year.  Other student perks include a heavily discounted student price of $99 for a full festival pass and free admission to a handful of daytime events.

Moogfest is also working to launch year-round programming, including efforts to mix STEM education and live performance; an Afrofuturism program with the Hayti Cultural Center; a synth-building workshop; and a program with Duke Innovation and Entrepreneurship—which the festival hopes is just the first of many collaborations with Duke.

“The ambition is to grow into a global event franchise and content platform with the larger business always revolving around the marquee experience in Durham,” Brickman said.

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