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The 2018 Margaret Guthman New Instrument Competition began with a familiar song. Ramblin' Wreck, Georgia Tech's fight song, blared through speakers as Cheryl Rogers, Margaret Guthman's niece and host of the night's show, marched on stage wearing white and gold from head to toe. She quickly set the tone for the rest of the night, letting the audience know that they were in for a night of music that was anything but predictable.
Before the concert was finished, the audience was treated to a variety of creative new instruments they had never seen before -- a Guthman competition staple. Everyone witnessed instruments that redefined what percussion could be, cutting edge technology combined with classic instruments, and a performance that quickly led to competitors, students, and volunteers marching around the auditorium playing Microtonal Ocarinas! As is usual at a Guthman competition, the concert delivered exactly what it promised to everyone who watched: the future of music.
FIRST PLACE: HYPER DRUMHEAD
Created by: Victor Zappi and Sydney Fels | Origin: Genoa, Italy, and Vancouver, Canada
The Hyper Drumhead is a tabletop interface with a retro-projected multi-touch glass display. An innovative model computes sound waves in real-time. Every time the glass is touched, a sound is injected into the system, turning every part of the screen into its own percussive instrument.
SECOND PLACE: GRAMFX
Created by: Jassie Rios | Origin: Washington, D.C.
GramFX is an augmented gramophone that uses an open-air gesture to control the processing of acoustic and electronic sound. It combines old and new recording/playback technologies to explore the physicality of a wind-up turntable in relation to light, time, space, and movement.
THIRD PLACE: MICROTONAL OCARINA
Created by: Wesley Hicks | Origin: Los Angeles, California
The Microtonal Ocarina is actually a collection of ceramic vessel flutes, able to play pitch fluid, tonally, and micro-tonally. They have a highly simplified “fingering” system; one hole to blow into the instrument and two playing holes, forming a T shape.
People's Choice Awards
The audience members were able to vote for their favorites, too! Each member of the audience could vote for his or her choice of best performance, most unusual instrument, and best overall instrument.
MOST UNUSUAL INSTRUMENT: STEPPER RATTLE
Created by: Matthew Steinke | Origin: Austin, Texas
The Stepper Rattle explores the balance between randomness and control caused by the complex of array of sensors and mechanics. With a design inspired by a rattle creating ambiguous rhythms that can slip in and out of time by chance.
BEST PERFORMANCE: TABLIX
Created by: Gurpreet Chana | Origin: Toronto, Canada
TABLIX started with the desire to explore technology’s impact on the untapped melodic potential of the tabla, which is made up of a pair of drums and serves as a staple in Hindustani classical music. The idea is rooted in the deep history of the tabla and blends the ergonomics, tradition, and sounds of a time-honored tabla tradition with the infinite possibilities of the digital to create a new mode of artistic expression.
BEST INSTRUMENT: STAHLCELLO
Created by: Jan Heinke | Origin: Dresden, Germany
Imagine a magnifying glass for music, that slows down sound to a point where the sound itself is more important than pitches or rhythm. A Stahlcello consists of 52 chromatically tuned rods made of iron and steel that are bowed by the performer. It is built on a resonating steel plate that creates a unique sonic world.
In addition to the standard awards given out every year, the judges wished to recognize one of the competitors with a special technical achievement award.
TECHNICAL ACHIEVEMENT: MECHDRUM
Created by: Robert Van Rooyen | Origin: Victoria, Canada
The MechDrum™ uses authentic striking implements, four degrees of freedom, and innovative motion control algorithms to render performances that closely match a human drummer. The result is a distinctly non-robotic rendering that honors both the percussionist and instrument.