The Georgia Tech Center for Music Technology (CMT) hosted the third annual Margaret A. Guthman Musical Instrument Competition on Feb. 24 and 25. The School of Music and College of Architecture sponsored event included a free live concert that was open to both the Tech community and the general public. The competition culminated with the awarding of $10,000 in prizes to the top finalists.
The Guthman Competition is an event for inventors and designers of new musical instruments from all over the world to showcase their work and innovation at the cutting edge of instrumental music and music technology.
“There is no other competition like this in the world,” said Jason Freeman, a judge for the competition and assistant professor in the School of Music. “Some of the goals [of the competition] are to promote the development of new musical instruments, to build a community of instrument designers and to showcase some of this incredible work.”
Entrants to the competition go through multiple rounds of selection, including an initial round of video clip submissions, then live auditions, to reach the finalist stage. This year, there were 24 semi-finalists from six different countries chosen from over 50 entries.
The instruments are judged on three areas: musicality, design and engineering. The competition is concerned with the novelty of the design, the soundness of the engineering, how well the instrument can be learned and played and the musicality of the sounds produced.
One finalist entry was the Invisible Instrument, designed and demonstrated by Tim Soo, a medical student at the University of Pennsylvania and a native Georgian that graduated from Emory University. The instrument uses familiar electronic gadgets, an iPhone and a Wii remote, to capture and simulate the motions and sounds of playing of a wide range of traditional instruments including the violin and the guitar.
A primary goal of the Invisible Instrument is to allow greater physical mobility, versatility, and accessibility in electronic instruments, by utilizing electronic technology that has become more available, such as the gyroscope in iPhones. Increasing the accessibility of instrumental music, especially learning to play instruments and to create new instrumental music, is also one of the motivations for the development and exploration of new musical instruments, according to Freeman.
Another finalist was Leon Gruenbaum, a musician and a graduate of Harvard University. His instrument, the Samchillian Tip Tip Tip Cheeepeeeee, was an electronic keyboard based on the idea of relativistic scales.
Gruenbaum’s instrument uses differences in pitch from the last note to map the keyboard, which makes possible certain techniques and styles of playing that traditional keyboards do not.
Gruenbaum received one of the three cash prizes given out in the competition. Other finalists included Jacob Sello from Germany. His instrument, the Hexenkessel, was a re-imagined and computerized drum. The group Interlude Consortium, from France, created the instrument the MO. The MO captures movements and gestures and translate them into digital music. It went on to receive the top prize this year.