Transhumanism isn't the only esoteric theme in "Future Thought," the group of programming tracks surrounding the concerts at Moogfest. Without an advanced degree in computer science, it can be hard to get your bearings. To help, we're connecting artists you know with side paths that will further your understanding of them.
LIKE GRIMES? TRY "THE FUTURE OF CREATIVITY": In a DCC Plaza installation, you can remix Grimes's "Realiti" by moving your body, thanks to Microsoft's Kinect, a motion-sensing device integral to consumer virtual reality. You can learn a lot about the field in this track, which includes keynotes from VR pioneer Jaron Lanier and cyberconsciousness expert Martine Rothblatt. Their insights extend not only to the installation, but also to the broader virtual medium—the Internet—where Grimes's persona and music incubated.
LIKE GZA? TRY "AFROFUTURISM": Sun Ra led the way, but Wu-Tang Clan, of which GZA is a founding member, brought Afrofuturism to the masses. An academic coinage that binds elements of science-fiction, alternate history, and Afrocentric cosmology, it fueled many Wu-Tang songs that mingled tales of lost African and Egyptian dynasties with comics and kung fu in acts of radical self-definition. GZA discusses "Time Traveling with Hip-Hop" with Duke's Mark Anthony Neal, and you should also check out "Can You Remember the Future?," a panel discussion with Janelle Monae, Reggie Watts, and others.
LIKE MORTON SUBOTNICK? TRY "ART & ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE": The first step toward computers that can think was, well, computers. Electronic music legend Morton Subotnick was an early pioneer of interactive computer music systems where the machine, in part, became the composer. He broke ground for the more complexly firing digital neurons explored in this track, with deep dives into IBM's Watson and Google Brain.
LIKE LAURIE ANDERSON? TRY "HACKING SOUND (SYSTEMS)": There are things to learn about an artist as visionary and borderless as Anderson in every track. But for context on the kinds of musical inputs she has invented, from a violin merged with a tape recorder to a six-foot-long MIDI baton, plunge into this track's wondrous array of innovative, DIY instruments and controllers, including the switchboard synthesizers of Antenes.
LIKE ONEOHTRIX POINT NEVER? TRY "INSTRUMENT INNOVATORS": Synth head Daniel Lopatin wouldn't exist as we know him without the people who developed the tech he chains together. This track fills in the history that led to today's electronic experimenters, with a special focus on Don Buchla, a peer of Bob Moog and a titan of analog synthesis.
LIKE SUNN O)))? TRY "TECHNOSHAMANISM": The drone metal stalwarts aren't alone at the festival in riding electronically processed sound toward transcendental states (see also Julianna Barwick, Grouper, and ambient-house legends The Orb). For more deep vibes and their theoretical context, check out Sam Conran's performances and talks about his Kabbalistic Synthesizer, which draws its waveforms from the Earth's magnetic field and magnetic storms in space. The electro-magic connection is rich: After all, you can't spell ohm without Om. —Brian Howe