Welcome to the Future with Moog Ground

Welcome to the Future with Moog Ground :: Monthlong Residency at Rough Trade NYC

Plus an exclusive interview with Moog mastermind, Emmy Parker (Brand Director, Moog Music & Moogfest)

Interview & Photos by Tiffany Wen (@Groovenik)

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The future is here and we’ve got Moog Music to thank for picking Brooklyn as their lucky host. Sure, it’s called a “monthlong synthesizer residency” by media folks and labeled “Moog Room” by way of Rough Trade’s in-house signage– but really, it’s so much more. If you’ve been to the space, close your eyes and think back to your first impression and overall experience. Hard to put in words, right? That’ a good thing, and you’re not alone.

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Walking into the space, many find themselves both dumbfounded with disbelief and giddy with excitement- a natural reaction and one that Moog Music had hoped to achieve. While collaborating with artists is nothing new for Moog Music (think: Moog Sound Lab), this scale of installation featuring equipment from two decades ago is definitely the first of its kind. Fifteen days, $100,000 worth of gear and many hands on deck later, the Moog Ground was born— a playground for those who make tomorrow’s music with today’s analog synth machines.

Visually arresting in both sound and spectacle, everything at the Moog Ground is free game. There’s nothing you can’t tinker with and no curiosity that can’t be explored, for literally up to twelve hours a day if you choose. A space like this simply can’t get better, and that goes for just about anyone: professional musicians, sound enthusiasts, cross-disciplinary artists, Moog staff and everyone else in between. The very nature of a residency usually brings to mind a handpicked community of artists working to advance their craft in a somewhat structured environment — Red Bull Music Academy comes to mind here. But this Moog Ground has presented a new model for ‘residency,’ democratizing what it means to give everyone access to express and stretch the possibilities of sound. The space is an equalizer, allowing both artists looking to record an album and Moog enthusiasts with a penchant to learn an opportunity to create and collaborate in the same arena.

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So who are these sonic magicians responsible for the space? We sat down with two Moog-ers, Trent and Emmy from the Moog Music office in Asheville, North Carolina to find out. In this week’s issue, we explore the origins of Moog Ground and how it came to be. In our next issue, we’ll take a closer look at the artists that have brought the Moog Ground alive with an exclusive video and interview.

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Thanks for chatting with us today, Emmy. Can you start off by telling us about what you do with Moog Music and Moogfest?

I’m the Brand Director for Moog Music and Moogfest. So everything that happens in the world of Moog happens from the Moog Factory in Asheville. We [at Moog Music] have this weird tendency to do things ourselves and it’s not just from a media or design standpoint, it’s also from an engineering standpoint. We tend to figure out most things by ourselves and we apply that to Moogfest as well.

How was the Moog residency conceived?

Rough Trade called us up and had this idea of Moog setting up an installation in New York. In 15 days, we had our concept installed from idea to space.

Have you guys done a pop up concept like this before?

This hasn’t been done before. There’s $100,000 worth of gear in the space. We did something similar on a much smaller scale at Movement Festival in Detroit some years ago.

What has been the overall reception of the space so far?

There isn’t anyone who walks in the room whose jaw doesn’t drop. It’s rare that you walk in, interact with handmade analog instruments. Someone actually walked in and said, “Thank you for bringing me to the future,” which is ironic because these instruments have been on the market for 20 years. This space is about timelessness and what’s futuristic. For us, what was really exciting was getting back to a place of experimentation across the board. We are experimenting with the installation itself, including the different pods of instruments, drone powers, an electronic drum kit that’s triggering a bunch of Voyagers, and a Little Phatty that’s triggering 9 racked Slim Phatties to name a few.

Can you elaborate more on this “place of experimentation” and what it means to someone who’s new to Moog?

We got to experiment with setting up different experiences using our instruments. We wanted to use the instruments in a different way. That was experimenting for us. Also, keep in mind we’re in a record store. People coming through are not already people who know our gear. We’ve opened up to the general public and also artists who live in the area to experiment with the gear. What we do is build instruments for musicians, so we set the space up for musicians to come through and experiment.

Fascinating. Talk more about this “lab”…

We’ve created a lab in two ways. We’ve closed off the room and let artists record for a few hours. Also, we’ve done public performances which are kinda like free form experimentations. We’re talking to the artists we know (Kiran Gandhi, MIA’s drummer for example) and we also know Mindy from Tom Tom Magazine who we knew would be excited about this.

Sounds like a dream come true for everyone, including people from Moog Music.

We thought about it like this: if we were in a record store and we happened to wander in a room, what would we want to see there? It becomes a fantasy for the folks that stumble in but also for the people with Moog who get to spend a week in this room. That’s a dream for us – to spend seven days in a room interfacing with the public. In a way, it’ been kind of magical and for the artists and general public that’s come in.

The Moog Ground, if I may call it that, has been a huge hit all around, it seems. Would you guys ever push to do this kind of installation again?

We wouldn’t want to repeat this in the same way. We don’t want it to be expected. Likewise, this isn’t something we want to promote heavily. We want people interested to come out and go back and tell those who are also interested. There’s been a steady stream of folks that haven’t seen an advertisement, but heard about it from someone who fell in love with the space.

Now that you’ve seen the space evolve, what do you think is Moog Ground’s biggest draw for people?

We want people to feel completely free in the space. You can’t know what to expect performance-wise. We’re basically empowering people to experiment with new sounds. Specifically, we want artists to come in and sample sounds. There are also producers who want access to these instruments. But there’s no pressure to record. We want people to use the space in whatever way.

Moogfest is coming up in April, which we’re all excited about. Who are you most excited to see as far as daytime and nighttime programming?

Hm, good question. I’m interested in Lucky Dragon’s ‘How to Hear’ workshop. They’ll take folks through exercises and give us new techniques and tools for listening so we can have a better idea of our sonic environment. To me, that’s really exciting. I’m also interested in the “Future of Creativity” series which will feature three different keynote presentations: [Oxford University philosopher Nick Bostrom, CEO of the Millenium Project Jerome C. Glenn and bioethicist, transhumanist, and futurist George Dvorsky]. We’ve gathered such a dynamic group of thinkers and doers, technologists, futurists, and astronauts to talk about creativity and art and music and sound and what this future holds as far as our ability to express ourselves creatively. That’s what we’re trying to do with Moogfest. We want this to be a reflection of possibility. We want people to explore during the daytime and see what’s possible for us in the future because of technology and how we will communicate. At night, we want people to explore new and old music and see those technologies and how they’re being put to use by artists. I’m excited for Kraftwerk, Moderat, and ADULT. Really, there’s no one I’m not excited for.

Moogfest 2014 will be held April 23-27 in Asheville, NC. Get your day and night tickets, and check our seriously awesome music picks here.

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