Mark Gresham | 09 MAR 2019 @ 8:277am ET (video appended 14 MAR 2019)
Keith Groover’s “The Glide” won first prize in the 2019 Guthman Musical Instrument Competition on Saturday night at Georgia Tech’s Ferst Center for the Arts. A melodic instrument based around accelerometers, movement of its handheld controls changes volume, tone and and attack while a small number of buttons select initial pitch, transposition and use of legato. In his performance, Groover demonstrated the instrument’s capacity for executing both soaring voice-like melodic lines and emulation of blazing electric guitar riffs.
“GeoShred” by moForte and Widom Music took second place honors while the three judge panel decided to split the third place spot between Alon Ilsar’s “AirSticks” and the “Spinstruments” of Ben Cooper and Enrico Vinholi.
GeoShred is an app instrument for Apple mobile devices that fuses Wizdom Music’s Geo Synthesizer user interface with moForte’s modeled guitar and effects chain. It was already a commercial product long before entering the 2019 Guthman Competition. It had already won a 2017 Electronic Musician Editor’s Choice Award
The remarkable visual and dance-like physicality of the performances with both the “AirSticks” and “Spinstruments” is what moved the expert judges – Pamela Z, Roger Lynn and Ge Wang — to divide the third place prize between them.
Played in somewhat of an air-drumming manner, “AirSticks” was developed from off-the-shelf gaming controllers plus custom software for manipulating both audio and digitally-generated visual elements. the most recent innovation in its hardwar is an intuitive, tactile silicon trigger pad that naturally strikes the palm of the hand is the course of air-drumming movements, controlling such elements of sound synthesis as velocity, sustain and aftertouch.
“Spinstruments” involves two different instruments, a “Sound Staff” in which control device pods are mounted on either end of as rigid pole – like a giant Q-tips cotton swab – and “Sound Poi” where a single control pod is attached at the end of a flexible tether. Drawing upon movements of ancient martial arts, the performers play the staffs and pois as tools in the fusion of object manipulation and expressive movement and dance. (“Flow Arts” is the contemporary terms used by movement artists.) The choreography in Saturday’s performance also included some rather expert juggling of three poi.
A special award for most promising design went to the “Biot-Savharp” built by Alice Barbe and Asimm Hirani The name itself is a plays on that oif the Biot–Savart law, which describes the magnetic field generated by a constant electric current. The instrument itself is a table-top harp with electromagnets placed above the strings. The sounds of the strings are enabled or disabled by the magnetic fields, controlled by a user interface that includes a capacitive-touch keyboard plus a pair of switches that control “droning in a manner similar to the sostenuto pedal of a grand piano, all without physically touching the strings.
A VoxVote cell phone poll of the audience took place at the end of the concert, before the judges’ awards were announced, for three People’s Choice Awards. The crowd voted “Spinstruments” the most unusual instrument, while giving “AirSticks” two awards: one for best musical instrument and the other for best performance by the instrument’s presenter.
A total of 14 finalists competed in the two day event which culminated in Saturday’s hour-and-a-half concert See more about the 2019 Margaret Guthman Musical Instrument Competition and the complete least of 14 finalists in the preview published Friday on EarRelevant. ■
UPDATE: 14 MAR 2019
Georgia tech has posted this video of the entire event on YouTube. View it here (duration: 02:16:52):
All photos are courtesy of Georgia Tech and the Margaret Guthman Musical Instrument Competition.