MOCAD hosts a show about women and their synthesizers
The women pioneers in electronic music are often consigned to footnotes in history, while household names like Giorgio Moroder, Brian Eno and Kraftwerk get all the credit. But what about Wendy Carlos, Daphne Oram, Laurie Spiegel or Delia Derbyshire? Thanks to organizations like Analog Ladies, the feminine influence on electronic music is getting a much needed reevaluation.
Saturday at MOCAD, Analog Ladies, founded by San Francisco musician Elise Gargalikis, and the Church of the Super Serge, created by her partner Dmitri Ponce, will present a synth building workshop and DJ sets by Detroit-based artists Erika and Mother Cyborg. Gargalikis and Ponce will close out the event with a performance from their project Slope114.
Analog Ladies, which has more than 600 Facebook group members from around the world, is a space for women to meet and share their love for creating and performing analog and digital synthesizer-based music. Gargalikis holds monthly meet-ups and performances at the Haight Street synthesizer store Robotspeak, and its neighboring record store Vinyl Dreams.
These gatherings are held in conjunction with the Church of the Super Serge, which was started in 2012 as a free synth building workshop. The Church began as a tribute to synth pioneer Serge Tcherepnin, who actually built his namesake instruments across the street from what is now Robotspeak, and it has since grown into a performance based event.
Gargalikis says she started Analog Ladies to find more women who shared her interests.
“It’s a male dominated industry, and many women are afraid or too shy or just don’t know that there are other women out there that are interested in synthesizers and electronic music,” she says. “I decided one day I was going to create this group and start an event along with it, and it kind of snowballed from there.”
In spite of a history of talented females in the music industry, she says, more action needs to be taken to make sure women get their due.
“These big festivals will happen and there will be two females on the bill out of 40 acts,” she says. “I don’t think just an amazing woman coming along and having talent is going to change that, because there are already so many that I wouldn’t even be able to name them. It’s up to all of us, and the promoters and the record labels, to make a huge effort to change things.”
Gargalikis and Ponce were invited to Detroit by their mutual friend Monty Luke, MOCAD’s curator of public programs. Luke also runs the record label Black Catalogue, which represents Slope114.
Ponce will open Saturday’s event with a workshop and lecture on how to build an Atari Synth Console, a basic synthesizer, and he will provide a booklet with instructions on how to craft one at home. He says it’s an honor to be invited to the birthplace of techno.
“Detroit is the biggest city for the kind of music we do,” he says. “People from San Francisco don’t get taken very seriously in this kind of music, so for us to go to Detroit and get to share what we do with people, it’s such a great honor to even get the gig. Pretty cool.”
Erika is one of two Detroit-based artists who will DJ at the event. She spends a great deal of time touring abroad — she has gigs in Brooklyn, Los Angeles, Germany and Amsterdam this summer — and she says even though Detroit’s electronic music scene is smaller than others around the world, it has the advantage of uniquely open-minded audiences.
“You get the rock kids going to the techno parties, and the techno people going to jazz shows,” she says. “There’s a lot of really interesting crossover here. That helps everybody and everything, because we get a really educated audience, people that really appreciate music that’s a little bit more out there or more underground.”
Steven Sonoras is an Ypsilanti-based freelance writer.
and the Church of the Super Serge
4 p.m. Sat.
Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit
$5 suggested donation