A Photographic Portrait of Moogfest, 2019
Recently I attended Moogfest — a music, arts, and technology festival celebrating in Durham recently its 15th anniversary. It’s kind of hard to describe, so I’m going to share some pictures instead.
It’s easy to feel like you’re missing out on something going on right around the corner when at a festival or event so vast. My intention is to encapsulate some of that vastness within specific moments at Moogfest through photographs.
Even if you’ve never been to or heard of Moogfest, these pictures seek to express some of the more universal landscapes of live performance, of festivals and communal gatherings, of being outdoors, of the synthesis of human emotion through technology, of movement, and everything in between.
For those curious, the following pictures were taken on a Canon T6 with either its stock 18–55 mm lens or this writer’s brother’s telephoto zoom lens—a Canon EF 70–200 mm f/4L. One of the challenges taking these pictures was the low light in many of the concert halls, as you’ll see, coupled with movement on stage and a desire to go dance around.
Matthew Dear performs in The Armory.
Modular on the spot, in “The Cage” at the American Tobacco Campus.
“Modular On The Spot is an outdoor modular synthesizer picnic founded in Los Angeles by Eric ‘Rodent’ Cheslak and Bana Haffar. The idea came about on a camping trip to Arizona in 2014 where the two set up a generator, speakers, and a modular synthesizer at an off grid location in the middle of the desert….The informal picnic setting combined with a focus on the modular synthesizers is intended to cultivate the exchange of ideas with those who share a common interest in the format, as well showcase the breadth of the instrument.” (Source.)
To be honest, I have no idea what this is. It’s Folktek brand and was positioned in the Modular Marketplace amongst dozens of synthesizers, Midi Keyboards, and other instruments I had trouble making sound very pretty.
(People could wander freely through the Modular Marketplace and play on any of the synths/etc. on display.)
Midmorning in Durham the moon shone between buildings. Taken on a walk from the farmer’s market.
A slightly grey day and a warm nightfall at Carolina Theatre. Here William Basinski performed his piece about a once real and ancient collision of two black holes; Kimbra discussed her style in a panel conversation; and musician/producer Max Cooper talked about the application of phenomena found in mathematics and nature to his music and its visual representation.
Deconstructed at the Moog Pop-Up Factory, where engineers built synths during the festival.
Wolfgang Voigt of GAS on the stage in Fletcher Hall in Carolina Theatre. When asked about his project with GAS, Voigt said that his intentions are to bring the forest to the disco (and vice versa).
Poèms Électronique, above. I felt a sense that they were counting out precise time stamps between shifts or changes in their music.
“Don’t Forget to Breathe!” they shouted at the start of their performance while moving in triple unison (third member not pictured above).
Another place to breathe… Durham yoga studio Global Breath, which hosted yoga classes throughout Moogfest as well as being home to “Infinity: An Immersive Sound Installation.”
“Magnetic Sound is a growing collection of resonating sound sculptures designed to calm the mind. Created as technically-inclined conceptual artwork, the sculptures generate magnetic energy to induce vibrations in metal and wood, fusing traditional instrument design with innovative technology to create tranquil soundscapes the world has never before experienced.” (Source.)
In the lobby of the Full Frame Theatre.
After numerous failed attempts of getting a picture of Eli Keszler’s lightning drumming in the low light of Carolina Theatre, I opted for a more abstract approach.
On the right is a further ideation on my portrait of Eli Keszler in the low blue light. Just looks like two blobs. Definitely not like Eli.
This is Eli:
This may as well be the control panel for a spaceship. Given the nature of some of the musicians’ sounds at Moogfest, layered with synth modulations and loops through time, reverberating between planets, it may as well be. (During Lula.XYZ’s performance at The Armory she guided the audience on a journey, as she said, through space — from Mars to Jupiter and all the cosmos.)
In the main room of The Fruit, where various instruments were positioned in a circle for communal music.
Above — Madame Gandhi at the drums during her workshop “Own Your Voice: Electronic Music Making as a Source of Personal Liberation.” She’s cool.
Sometimes photographs can have a certain magic to them — I think it’s in the way light reflects and in people’s expressions, the feelings that come through. A friend told me that the magic in photography is in people’s eyes.
The picture above is of Lula.XYZ, a London-based musician who said that as artists we are conduits for something greater than ourselves.
Thanks for reading! For more from Moogfest, check out my interview with Hey Arnold! composer Jim Lang here.