Exquisite sounds entertain, educate at CCB Plaza

In CCB Plaza Thursday, the sounds of construction at nearby One City Center blended with synthesized sounds, drum beats and voices emanating from a domed structure called the Ouroborium.

Inside the dome, eight musicians led by Chris Marianetti took turns making sounds with electronic instruments, microphones, a kalimba and other instruments.

The musicians were creating a composition as part of Found Sound Nation’s art installation “Democracy’s Exquisite Corpse.” Marianetti and Jeremy Thal co-founded the organization Found Sound Nation to promote the creation of music as a way to “connect people across cultural divides.” The installation is part of Moogfest 2017, which kicked off Thursday. The installation continues through Sunday, and festivalgoers and visitors are invited to sign up to participate.

The installation promotes connectedness through music, Marianetti said. “Every position is connected to every other position,” and each person’s sound affects the sound of every other participant, he said. “It’s like a recording studio in the street.”

Found Sound has set up a smaller version of the Ouroborium at music festivals and events worldwide. Moogfest is the first time the organization has built a full-sized dome, Marianetti said.

A music software maker named Gerhard said he was “interested in the social experiment part” of the installation. Computers have given people the ability to create music without ever participating with other humans. “It’s always good when someone tries to break out of that,” Gerhard said.

At the Power Plant Gallery in American Tobacco, festivalgoers were playing keyboards, playing with patches, turning dials and using other devices to explore the sounds of new digital and modular synthesizers at the Modular Marketplace. Taylor Morken, marketing manager for Novation, was demonstrating and telling potential buyers about the company’s new Peak synthesizer. The instrument does not use a keyboard, and uses both digital and analogue ways of creating sound, Morken said. Enrique Martinez, who also works with Novation and calls himself a “tech evangelist,” demonstrated the company’s Circuit Mono Station, which allows a musician to play as many as seven octaves with one hand, and “choose the way the notes are layered.”

With the Peak synthesizer, Novation wanted to reach people who wanted to make sounds without being programmers, Morken said. “We encourage people to play it right away” and not worry about their lack of synthesizer knowledge, he said.

A composer who calls himself The Glad Scientist (thegladscientist.ninja) was using the Peak system and liked what he heard. “I think it’s a beautiful combination of analog synthesizers with some digital components for the sequencing,” he said. “I have just recently discovered the magic of modular synthesizers,” he said, and plans to use them more in his composing.

Katie Kilobyte (https://soundcloud.com/katiekilobyte), a composer who lives in Greensboro, was explaining a system made by STG Soundlabs of Chicago. “This is the old [Robert] Moog style” instrument, and she pointed out how the jack holes were larger than on more modern synthesizers. STG is in part trying to reach a niche market of musicians and composers who love the old-style synthesizers from the 1960s, as opposed to synthesizers with pre-set sounds, she said.

The STG has jacks, dials, envelope generators, oscillators, and other devices for creating sounds. To play it, you simply start working with it, Kilobyte said. “The beautiful thing about synthesizers is it’s more like the human voice,” she said. She also is a guitarist and singer, and in her compositions she uses both analog and digital synthesizers. She pulled out a laptop-size synthesizer that she sometimes uses in stage performances. “I use everything,” she said. “I personally like a little bit of everything.”

Moogfest continues through Sunday.

“Democracy’s Exquisite Corpse” and the Modular Marketplace continue through Sunday. For times and details, visit www.moogfest.com.