Cyborg dancers flex and exercise their musical appendages. Tin foil sculptures squeal in unison. A chorus of bubbles serenades and engulfs you. This isn’t some alien world from a sci-fi novel; it’s the 2014 Margaret Guthman Musical Instrument competition. This year’s Guthman entries shatter the conventional definition of the musical instrument and allow experimentation and ingenuity to take hold.
Twenty-three inventors, composers and designers representing 14 nations were selected to present their new instruments at this year’s competition. They were selected from a pool of over 80 applicants from 20 countries — the most competitive pool in the history of the competition. Instruments will be judged on their musicality, design and engineering by an expert panel comprised of David Zicarelli (founder and CEO of Cycling ’74), Chris Moore (composer, performer and Georgia Tech professor), and Young Guru (Grammy-nominated engineer to Jay-Z).
The Margaret Guthman Musical Instrument Competition, an annual event to find the world’s best new ideas in musical instrument design, engineering, and performance, is held at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Sponsored by the Georgia Tech Center for Music Technology, the School of Music, and the College of Architecture, the competition brings entrants from all over the world to Georgia Tech to compete for $10,000 in prizes.
The instruments featured in the 2014 competition range from cutting edge to bizarre, and all expand the notion of what a musical instrument can be. For example, the AlphaSphere, a new kind of digital controller from the United Kingdom, has a spherical design with playable circular pads that allow for varying degrees of expression. By way of Canada, the Spine is a “prosthetic” digital musical appendage developed for dancers. The Powder Box hails from Japan, and is a modular system that allows novice participants to experience a cooperative musical performance through sensors and synchronized musical events. These represent just a few of the exciting semi-finalists chosen for this year’s competition.
The 2014 Margaret Guthman Musical Instrument Competition, now in its sixth year, will be held February 20th and 21st 2014 at the Klaus Advanced Computing Building, 266 Ferst Drive on the Georgia Tech campus. The finals are Friday, February 21st, from 7:00 – 8:30 pm and are free and open to the public. Full details are available at http://guthman.gatech.edu.