The music, ideas and technology conference Moogfest is responding to a complaint that was voiced often over the last year — that music festivals frequently overlook or under-book L.G.B.T. artists and women — by beginning to roll out its 2018 lineup with an announcement of female, nonbinary and transgender performers.
The event, which runs May 17-20 in Durham, N.C., will feature the D.J.s Honey Dijon and Ellen Allien; the mysterious British pop producer-musician Sophie; the multidisciplinary sound explorer Fatima Al Qadiri; LCD Soundsystem’s synthesizer maven Gavin Rayna Russom; and the Japanese percussionist and composer Midori Takada, among others. A keynote conversation with Chelsea Manning will close the festival. Additional artists will be announced in January.
In a preliminary celebration this week, Moogfest is partnering with Tom Tom magazine (tagline: “Drummers. Music. Feminism”) to present “Always On,” a 50-hour marathon featuring 50 female, nonbinary and transgender musicians in 35 cities and 17 countries taking turns live-streaming their sets. The event starts on Wednesday at 12 p.m. EST and ends on Friday at 2 p.m. EST. The artists run the gamut from Madame Gandhi, who used to play drums with M.I.A., to Nicola Kuperus of the Detroit cold-wave duo Adult.; from Au Revoir Simone’s Annie Hart to D.J. Haram from the Discwoman collective; and from the rapper and poet Moor Mother to the electronic-music pioneer Suzanne Ciani.
“It’s pure and celebratory in trying to highlight these incredible artists all over the globe,” the Moogfest director of programming Lorna-Rose Simpson said in a phone interview. “Through technology, we can allow musicians who maybe don’t get represented enough — some of them are a little unknown, some of them are very well known — to be equal on this platform, where everyone gets one hour to perform.”
Moogfest started in 2004 in New York City as a one-day tribute to the synthesizer trailblazer Robert Moog (who died the following year at 71). The festival relocated to Asheville, N.C., in 2010, and to Durham in 2016, moves that were accompanied by an expansion in size and scope. Evenings are dedicated to performances under the “Future Sound” umbrella; many of the musicians also participate in the daytime programming (“Future Thought”), which is made up of panels, workshops, installations and lectures.
“Always On” is an extension of the conference’s “durational” events, albeit on a much bigger scale. Among the most seasoned participants is Ms. Ciani, whose career dates back to the early 1970s and who was the recipient of the Moog Innovation Award in May 2017. “I’ve always loved the pioneering edge of technology and this event qualifies as groundbreaking,” she said in an email. “Streaming worldwide is not unusual nowadays, but streaming from 50 consecutive sources in a seamless continuity is quite a feat!”
For Ms. Ciani, the theme for Moogfest 2018 is only natural. “Women have long been intimately connected to electronic music, perhaps because it offered a path outside male-dominated conventional music worlds,” she said. “What has changed is an awareness of women in the field historically as well as a huge influx of contemporary talent.”