Inventive minds gather at a Guthman Musical Instrument Competition event. (images courtesy of Georgia Tech)

2019 Guthman Musical Instrument Competition brings innovative technology to the fore

Mark Gresham | 07 MAR 2019

The final round of the 2019 Margaret Guthman Competition will take place this Saturday, March 9th, at 7pm at the Ferst Center for the Arts on the campus of Georgia Tech. Admission is free and open to the public. Advance ticket reservations for the concluding competitive concert are available online through Freshtix. Free Parking for the event will be available in the W02 Student Center Parking Deck in Visitor Area 3, a short walk from the Ferst Center

The innovative annual Guthman Competition aims to identify the world’s next generation of musical instruments by inviting musicians, inventors, and artists to exhibit their original instruments for several days and network in a conference-like gathering. Creators demonstrate their instruments in front of a panel of expert judges in a pair of preliminary sessions which take the form of in-depth, TED Talk-style presentations. They will then perform for the judges and a live audience in the concluding public concert on Saturday at the spacious Ferst Center auditorium.


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Judges fpr the 2019 competition are composer, performer, and media artist Pamela Z; electronic musical instrument designer and Technical GRAMMY® Award winner Roger Linn; and Ge Wang, associate professor at Stanford University Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA) and the author of Artful Design.

The adventurous exploration of technology does have its practical real-world consequences. Guthman entrants in previous competitions – such as the OP-1, Roli Seaboard, and Mimu Gloves – later became mainstream music products. Other competing instruments, however, like the Infinitone or the Adjustable Microtonal Guitar, ramain experimental and thoroughly unique.


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Below is a slider with images of the 14 finalists, followed by a list of the instruments, their creators and origins, and a short description of each. ■

Images of the 14 Finalists:

List of the 2019 Guthman Competition Finalists, including creators, and origins, along with short descriptions of each:

  1. AIR STICKS
    Creator: Alon IIsar
    Origin: Sydney, Australia

    The Air Sticks combine the physicality of drumming with the unlimited possibilities of computer music. Using innovative software, it morphs 3D space around the user into a playable area.

  2. ARCONTINUO
    Creator: Rodrigo F. Cadiz
    Origin: Santiago, Chilez

    The Arcontinuo challenges the notion of what a musical gesture is – it incorporates both natural and ergonomic gestures from a musician, changing the traditional way a user engages with the instrument.

  3. BIOT-SAVHARP
    Creators: Alice Barbe, Asimm Hirani
    Ortigin: Atlanta, Georgia, USA

    The Biot-Savharp is a table-top harp with steel strings made to play with electromagnets, placed above the strings, which are enabled/disabled at the frequency of the string.

  4. CHORD VIOLA
    Creators: Gabriel Passov, Priit Bernhardt, Roman Denissov, Raivo Hiiemaa
    Origin: Tallinn, Estonia

    The Chord Viola is a modified viola that allows the user to play registers that are not possible on a traditional viola, such as a three-string register and a double stop register in octave steps. It expands possibilities for musicians playing solo, or in ensembles.

  5. GEO SHRED
    Creator: moForte/Wizdom Music
    Origin: Mountain View, California, USA

    GeoShred is a unique, expressive musical instrument with a multi-touch performance surface, coupled with an advanced physical model of stringed instruments.

  6. THE GLIDE
    Creator: Keith Groover
    Origin: Spartanburg, South Carolina, USA

    The Glide is a melodic instrument built around the accelerometer. The use and manipulation of acceleration changes the volume, tone, pitch, and attack, while a small handful of buttons select the initial pitch, legato, and transposition. It has been designed with accessibility primarily in mind, meaning that a wide range of people are able to play it regardless of physical ability, financial means, or prior musical knowledge.

  7. HIT-STRIKE-PLAY
    Creator: Amit Segall
    Ortigin: London, UK

    Hit – Strike – Play is an installation exploring layout design and interaction with digital musical instruments using computer vision. The installation balances the cognitive and visual feedback of a digital interface with a physical musical instrument.

  8. KAURIOS
    Creator: Nathan M. Asman
    Origin: Eugene, Oregon, USA

    Deriving its name from the wood in which the instrument was created, Kaurios is both the title of the piece and the name of the instrument itself. Consisting of two pieces (or stones, as the creator calls them), the Kaurios makes music both by the buttons on the top, and also from moving the pieces around. The instrument is completely wireless.

  9. KORITAS
    Creators: Kordan
    Origin: Rome, Italy

    The Koritas is an innovative intercultural musical instrument which merges existing ethnic instruments from 5 continents into a single instrument. Those instruments are: 1) An African Cajon which anchors the other instruments, 2) An African Kora, 3) An Indian tampura transformed into a pedal, 4) A Didgeridoo, a traditional Australian wind instrument, and 5) A Japanese Koshi, an instrument that functions like bar chimes.

  10. MISSION CONTROL
    Creator: Astrid Bin, Ryan Rose, Richard Savery
    Origin: Atlanta, Georgia, USA

    Winner of the 5th Annual Moog Hackathon, Mission Control is a cooperative interface for modular synth performance. The Werkstatt’s controls are distributed among three players, who must rely upon and communicate with each other in order to effectively play it, while only being able to see and effect a small and incomplete set of controls.

  11. QJIN
    Creator: Qianqian Jin
    Origin: San Francisco, California, USA

    The QJin is a customized MIDI controller for a Guzheng (a Chinese classical zither) with a built-in amplification system to augment its capacity for live performance and sound design. A built-in arduino board allows it to interface with music software, allowing the performer a large array of musical possibilities.

  12. S.R.I MRUDANGA
    Creator: Varadarangan K, Performed by Jag Jayaprakash
    Origin: Bengaluru, India

    The S.R.I Mrudanga is a state of the art percussion instrument that is built using a fibre glass shell and synthetic drum heads. The primary objective of this invention is to create percussion instruments that do not use animal skins, are eco-friendly, and made using engineering materials and processes that standardize and maintain consistency in tonal performance.

  13. SPIDER HARP
    Creator: Chet Udell, Ross Hatton, Andrew Otto
    Origin: Corvallis, Oregon, USA

    The Spider Harp is exactly as it sounds: a robot spider sits in the middle of a larger-than-life web constructed out of steel and orange parachute cord, silently listening through accelerometers in its feet. A musician begins to pluck the strings like a harpist, filling the room with enchanting sounds and haunting melodies. Its a seamless collaboration between the human performer; the robot spider, which translates plucks into location, distance, and intensity data; and custom music software that transforms this data into melodies, harmonies, and rhythms.

  14. SPINSTRUMENTS: SOUND STAFF & SOUND POI
    Creators: Enrico Vinholi & Ben Cooper
    Origin: Portland, Oregon & Sydney, Australia

    The Spinstruments are designed to be reactive to the users movements. The device is programmed to assign sounds to particular types of movements so that as the artist builds a choreography, they can also create a song. The sounds themselves can be interchanged and there are limitless possibilities for combinations of sounds.


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