Grooving and geeking at the Moogfest music spree

It's been 50 years since the world's first modular synthesizer hit the market. Moogfest celebrates the evolution of the sound-bending instrument, and this year, so did Crave's Michael Franco.

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The Pet Shop Boys unleashed stellar graphics to go with their electro-pop sound on the opening night of Moogfest. Michael Franco/CNET

The small mountain town of Asheville, N.C., isn't usually filled with the sounds of guitar strums and washboard rhythms, but some strange electronic bleeps and bloops recently filled the air.

It was time for Moogfest, which celebrates the work of Bob Moog, who set up his one-and-only Moog factory in Asheville to pump out his analog synthesizers and other sound-bending toys that have had a massive impact on our modern musical landscape.

Unlike other popular fests that focus solely on music, Moogfest, first started in 2004, is a bit different. Sure, there were musical acts at night this year -- everyone from disco stalwarts Chic to robo-like Kraftwert to electronic musical maven Flying Lotus took to stages and theaters all over town.

But during the day, the same spaces were filled with all manner of geeky demonstrations and talks. Along with her crew, Jannele Monáe -- the musician responsible for both the "ArchAndroid" and "Electric Lady" albums -- discussed the role of science fiction in music. MIT Media Labs showed off software that could turn any song into a waltz. David X. Cohen revealed some of the hidden math jokes in "The Simpsons" and "Futurama." And Neil Harbisson, who sports a device implanted in his skull that lets him "hear" colors, talked about being an honest-to-goodness cyborg.

There were hands-on workshops that let you build things like your own touch-activated sensor; an interactive musical art exhibit; and the chance to play with theremins and other sound-twisting instruments at the Moog factory itself.

Here are some highlights of festival in photos.

About the author

Freelancer Michael Franco writes about the serious and silly sides of science and technology for Crave and other pixel and paper pubs. He's kept his fingers on the keyboard while owning a B&B in Amish country, managing an eco-resort in the Caribbean, sweating in Singapore, and rehydrating (with beer, of course) in Prague. E-mail Michael.

 

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