Moogfest Returns to Synthesize More Amazing Ideas

Volunteers still needed, student tickets available

Moogfest2016 Modular Marketplace Carlos G.
The "Modular Marketplace" in the American Tobacco Campus powerhouse allows festival guests to tweak the knobs and make new sounds.

Moogfest, the four-day music, arts and technology showcase, returns May 18-21 to downtown Durham for a glimpse of a future that is “expansive, inclusive and truly inspirational.”

In addition to futurists, performers, inventors, coders and ‘techno shamans,’ Duke University scholars can be found throughout the program.

The nearly round-the-clock festival sprawls across multiple venues from Motorco to American Tobacco Campus. It features performances, conversations, workshops, films, installations and the wildly popular modular marketplace, where the public can engage with a variety of sound-shaping machinery and talk to the designers of these new musical instruments.

Free programs, like the “musical pencil synth make-and-take” on Thursday, May 18, promise fun for the whole family. Saturday’s program is especially rich with free, family activities from 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., including art installations, workshops and performances.

Carolina Theatre This year’s program themes are Black Quantum Futurism, Hacking Systems, Instrument Design, Sci-Fi, Techno-Shamanism, and Transhumanism.

Music headliners at the festival include the founding father of Detroit techno, Derrick May; The Animal Collective, and former R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe, who will be performing a new artwork of video with a Moog score that will run continuously throughout the festival.

Duke Vice Provost for the Arts Scott Lindroth will host an installation in the lobby of the Carolina Theater each day of the festival that demonstrates “SuperCollider,” an open source software language for creating audio. The installation will meld SuperCollider, Arduino synthesizers and scrap metal into an ever-changing performance.

On Friday at 11:30 a.m., Duke physicist Mark Kruse will lead a teleconferenced virtual visit of ATLAS, a giant particle smashing experiment underground in Switzerland. That afternoon at 3, he’ll also be sharing huge slabs of particle physics data from ATLAS with registered workshop participants and showing them a visual analysis tool for looking at proton-proton collisions.

Thursday afternoon at 4:45, Duke neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis will explain how brain-machine interfaces can gather and encode motor cortex signals and turn them into prosthetic actions.

Also from Duke, biomedical engineer Charlie Gersbach will give a 3 p.m. Friday talk on editing the genome with CRISPR and other tools. Nursing professor Ryan Shaw will give a pub talk at 1 p.m. on Friday about mobile technology and the future of healthcare. Saturday’s pub talk will feature Michael Clamann of the Humans and Autonomy Lab at 5 p.m., discussing the impending arrival of the robot car.

On Saturday and Sunday afternoons, Duke’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative on Morris Street will be hosting an immersive virtual reality experience called Perspective. (Advanced registration required due to limited capacity.)

Google Brain representatives will be on hand to discuss “Magenta,” their effort to create compelling music and art with machine learning. There will be experimental films with live music scores and dozens of musical performances each day, stretching into the wee hours every night.

And keep your eyes peeled for the virtual reality bus and the Argus Project, which features “wearable sculpture, video installation and counter-surveillance training.”

Community volunteers are still needed and Duke employees are encouraged to step up. You must be available for 16 hours of work during the festival and willing to put down $99 for a festival pass -- funds that will be returned to you when you successfully complete your commitment. Details can be found at

A limited number of $99 student tickets are also available. There’s a form to fill out for that.

Festival passes are $259 for access to all events on all days. For ticket information, go to

 Duke engineering professor Steve Cummer told last years’s Moogfest about his ‘sound hologram’ experiments. (Photo by Jonathan Lee)