Moogfest gears up with Google AI and Suzanne Ciani


It’s that time of the year again when we are swamped with big announcements. For example Google kicks off its I/O event, but for those of us who favor events that trigger our senses Moogfest 2017 is erupting tomorrow, May 18th. Like we have become accustomed to Moogfest is growing in size and importance as the main electronic music event, an event that literally transforms the home town of Moog into a beat shaking party zone paired with experimental labs that DIY addicts can delve and create the sounds of future.

Speaking of the sounds of future and speaking of Google (which was no coincident by the way), Google will be present at the event showcasing their latest AI experiments where they will reveal how far AI has come in generating sounds we’ve not heard before. They call this project Nsynth.

NSynth is a project from Google Magenta, a team of AI researchers at the tech giant tasked with finding out whether AI can be used to create art and music. “Unlike a traditional synthesizer which generates audio from hand-designed components like oscillators and wavetables, NSynth uses deep neural networks to generate sounds at the level of individual samples,” the team explains in a blog post.

The program uses samples of real instruments such as organ, glockenspiel and flute, which the AI analyzes in order to create new sounds using the mathematical characteristics of the notes from each. A motivation behind the NSynth dataset is that it lets us explicitly factorize the generation of music into notes and other musical qualities. The NSynth dataset was inspired by image recognition datasets that have been core to recent progress in deep learning. Similar to how many image datasets focus on a single object per example, the NSynth dataset hones in on single notes.

In case you want to do something similar to what Google is doing you may want to try Analog Strings, a software plug-in that combines sampled orchestras and analog synths to create unusual hybrid string sounds. Output sampled a 60-piece and 22-piece string orchestra at the BMC hall in Budapest for the instrument, as well as a few vintage synths known for their string sounds, covering everything from plucks and stabs to pads.

To learn more about Google’s initiative you can go here, if not then let us go back to the main event.

Apart from delivering an impressive line up of artist and performers Moogfest has also become the place where we celebrate the men and women who have really pushed the envelope in electronic music. This year Moggfest will actually also for the first time live up to the second part of that statement – women – by handing the price to none other then Suzanne Ciani.

This award recognizes her 45 plus years of genre-defying work that exemplifies the bold, innovative spirit of Bob Moog. Past recipients include visionary artists like Gary Numan, Devo, Brian Eno, Bernie Worrell, and Thomas Dolby, and synth designers like Herb Deutsch.

This is what the Moogfest commitee had to say in relation to awarding Suzanne:

Ciani, the first woman to receive the award, superseded many of her male contemporaries as a synthesist, sound designer, and composer. Well known as an early protege and long-time devotee of Don Buchla, and a friend of Bob Moog, her use of synthesizers created entirely new sounds that opened minds around the globe to electronic music as a valid form of expression. She is a five-time Grammy nominated composer and the first woman to score a Hollywood film. Her work has been featured in countless commercials, video games, and feature films.

Today, Ciani continues to inspire generosity, curiosity, and experimentation for a resurgent, multi-generational community of synth-enthusiasts and electronic music fans. Ciani’s 4-hour durational performance at Moogfest 2016 modulated between a rolling quadraphonic soundscape, stories about her early days working in New York, and tips for operating rare Buchla synths while spatializing audio. Ciani returns to Moogfest 2017 to receive the Moog Innovation award, where she will perform and be celebrated in a workshop, featured conversation as well as host a screening of a recently released documentary about her innovative life in electronic music.

Performed 27 January 2017 in Stockholm, Sweden. Originally in quadraphonic spatial sound.

Moog would be hard-pressed to find a better ambassador to what the essence of Moogfest stands for than Suzanne Ciani herself. A pioneer in every way, Suzanne nurtured her love of the Buchla synthesizer and music itself into realms that scarcely existed when she began her career. Using sound design as a platform for creativity, she parlayed all her knowledge and discovery into creating one of the first commercial production studios: New York-based Ciani-Musica, Inc.

We all know Suzanne’s fascination with modular machines, but also her use of both Buchla and Moog, in a fairly recent interview she elaborates on this topic:

“The Moog is very sonic-centered. It has a beautiful sound and wonderful filters, and a certain quality to its sound. The Buchla was never about the sound. It was about way the sound could move. It had a lot of voltage control. It had a lot of different ways of controlling the movement of sound. The Moog did not have a lot of different ways of controlling the movements of the sound. It was fine as a keyboard instrument. So, it was a slightly different world. I see that very clearly now.

Back then I used be frustrated: why can’t this one do that and why can’t that one do this?”

And she continues: “For me, the most important aspect of the synthesizer was the machine-dependability of the rhythm. With it, I was able to create real slow music. For human beings to play very slowly in a regular rhythm is difficult. I think it’s a subliminal experience when you know that beat is coming on time, you can depend on it. That’s the whole essence, underpinning the peacefulness, the sensuality and the beauty of the music. And that is a very machine-like capability, just that rhythm. You don’t have to propel it with drums and it’s just the machine itself.”

MOOGFEST – ABOUT THIS YEAR’S EVENT

North Carolina’s electronic music conference and festival Moogfest has announced its lineup of performers and presenters for this year via Billboard Dance. The festival is set to take place in Durham from May 18-21. The headliners for the festivals’ two major concert series will be Flying Lotus and Animal Collective.

Other notable inclusions on the bill include Pharmakon, S U R V I V E, Jessy Lanza, The Haxan Cloak, Simian Mobile Disco, Laraaji, and Gotye, who will appear as part of a tribute to the late French producer Jean-Jacques Perrey. Legendary Stones Throw producer Peanut Butter Wolf will host a production workshop as well as performing a set honoring Bernie Worrell and Keith Emerson.

Moogfest Workshops

From the practical to the esoteric, workshops offer direct engagement with artists, thinkers and creators performing at Moogfest and empower the individual to affect the future. Possibilities range from Laraaji’s workshop on laughter meditation, to building your own light theremin or square-wave oscillator, to a contact mic workshop with underground experimental music figurehead Pharmakon, to a workshop where NEW INC will try to build a simulated utopia, to a class on DJ fundamentals for kids with renowned Detroit techno producer DJ K-HAND, to using laser projectors for generating abstract visuals, to a hands-on workshop on the basics of building modular patches for female and non-binary individuals, presented by S1 Synth Library.

Masterclasses with Moogfest Artists & Makers

DJs Greg Belson and Peanut Butter Wolf will impart wisdom and musical storytelling learned through a life digging through record crates.

Artist Gotye will lead a masterclass in the round on recently deceased electronic music pioneer Jean-Jacques Perrey’s life, musical genius, and signature electronic instrument the Ondioline.

Video synthesizer designer and founder of LZX Industries Lars Larsen takes a moment to step away from the workbench and discuss the potential of modular analog video synthesis tools and workflow for the modern day video artist.

Ableton Live founder and electronic musician Gerhard Behles discusses the democratization of access to tools to create music and illuminate new ideas.

Hacking Systems

In these workshops you’ll learn to breadboard a square wave oscillator from a single integrated circuit while revealing the electric DNA of the modular synth genome with Elliot Inman; spontaneously compose a radio piece with non-profit online radio station Dublab, Container and Elon Katz; learn to use affordable, off-the-shelf hardware and free open-source software to design real-time musical devices to dynamically generate music to foster mindfulness with Ico Bukvic, founder and director of Virginia Tech’s Digital Interactive Sound and Intermedia Studio.

Black Quantum Futurism

Moor Mother and Afrofuturist Affair guide workshops in this intersectional theory and practice that combines quantum physics, futurist traditions, and Black and African diasporic cultural traditions of consciousness, time, and space.

Workshop participants will build future maps and quantum time capsules, shift cause and effect, and better understand the interaction between timescapes and soundscapes; use a DIY sci-fi lens to explore and reclaim mindspaces; create a sound space to combat oppression; and develop their own unique superhero identities.

Spatial Sound

In these workshops experience spatial audio in a 3D audio Space Jam under the guidance of Virginia Tech’s ICAT faculty; learn ways to control spatial audio in a high-density loudspeaker array; learn how to code spatial effects using the free, open-source program SuperCollider; and hear how the power of immersive audio can become a compositional and audio-engineering tool to create new musical experiences.

Instrument Design

In a very special happening, synth design titan Dave Smith will lead a masterclass on one of his most iconic synths, The Prophet. Instrument tech pioneer Dave Rossum will host an intimate conversation that illuminates his unique path and designs. Moog engineer Michael Ashton will show his workshop participants how to build their own synthesizers, from concept to circuit board to chassis.

The Engineer VIP Workshop consists of two three-hour sessions (held over two days) led by Moog engineers, where participants learn the foundations of analog synthesis and are guided through the process of building their own unreleased Moog synthesizer/sequencers.

The synthesizers built in the workshop will be part of a limited run of 100 units.

Techno-Shamanism

Where meditation meets mechanization, Techno-Shamanism merges technology with something more cosmic, ancient traditions with cutting-edge innovations, to tap into etheric energy and bring next-wave ideas into physical existence. Related workshops include a sleep concert/laughter meditation session with famous yogi, musician, and mystic Laraaji; a family-friendly exercise in yoga and waveform mandala art; and a conversation from Moog engineer Amos Gaynes about the connection between music, dance, and shamanic ritual.

Protest

Educator, humanitarian, and UNC Music and Technology Professor Dr. Mark Katz conducts a conversation with acclaimed musicians and scholars on using music to advance social and political causes; Dr. Will Boone leads a presentation on the efficacy of blues and gospel music as a counter-resistance force; EDM/social justice nonprofit Give a Beat opens up a discussion on how dance music and tech can be utilized for addressing and recovering from the effects of mass incarceration. Artist and educator Taeyoon Choi leads a workshop on how to make compelling signage that effectively starts a dialogue, and Protest Stage performer Mykki Blanco leads a masterclass.

The Joyful Noise of STEAM

Techno producer DJ K-HAND will guide kids (and anyone else who’s interested) through the basics of DJing; Lile Stephens will lead students ages 10-18 in building a working light theremin; Philadelphia-based collective Metropolarity will help workshop participants identify their unique superhero identities then come together to create narrative art that tackles an issue of their collective choosing.

The Future of Creativity

Armida Ascano of Trend Hunter delves into the possibilities and influence of the post-Internet generation; MIT’s artist-scientist Joe Davis will lead an exploration of interstellar communication; [descriptor] Dr. Steven Goldfarb, Duke professor Mark Kruse, and CERN scientist Dr. Kate Shaw will participate in a broadly-accessible discussion on the Large Hadron Collider and physics and math in developing countries.

See the Moogfest 2017 site for full details.