The 2019 Margaret Guthman New Instrument Competition results

The 2019 Margaret Guthman New Instrument Competition Finals opened to a packed Ferst Center, entertaining the audience with an impressive lineup of new musical instruments that made music with everything from gestures to magnets. There were a number of differences in how the finals were conducted this year. Most notably, the competition changed the structure of the finals: rather than paring down performers from the preliminary judging, every inventor that was invited to come to the competition was also given the chance to perform on stage in front of the capacity crowd.

Host Cheryl Rogers tried her hand at performing, using a less unusual instrument - a harmonica - to do so, but earned her own set of fans. Dr. Rafael Bras, the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs for Georgia Tech, was on hand to help celebrate the competition as a great night for Arts at Tech. The competition even earned a new nickname from Judge Pamela Z: "The Guthies". The only thing that was predictable was the same thing that the competition is always known for: a showcase of the future of music.

FIRST PLACE: THE GLIDE

Created by: Keith Groover | Origin: Spartanburg, South Carolina
 

The Glide is a melodic instrument built around an 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.

SECOND PLACE: GEOSHRED

Created by: moForte/Wizdom Music | Origin: Mountain View, California
 

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

THIRD PLACE(TIE): AIRSTICKS

Created by: Alon Ilsar | 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.

THIRD PLACE(TIE): SPINSTRUMENTS

Created by: 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.

People's Choice Awards

The capacity crowd was also called upon to award instruments with three People's Choice Awards. 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: SPINSTRUMENTS

Created by: Enrico Vinholi & Ben Cooper | Origin: Portland, Oregon & Sydney, Australia
 

The Spinstruments also took home the audience's choice for most unusual instrument this year - the instrument's unique style of play mystified but intrigued the crowd.

BEST PERFORMANCE & BEST INSTRUMENT: AIRSTICKS

Created by: Alon Ilsar | Origin: Sydney, Australia
 

Despite technical difficulties that forced the performer to stop playing during his set, he was allowed to finish finish at the end of the show. Despite this, the Airsticks clearly won over the favor of the audience, taking both the awards for Best Performance and Best Instrument.

 

Judges' Awards

MOST PROMISING MUSICAL INSTRUMENT INVENTOR: BIOT-SAVHARP

Created by: Alice Barbe & Asimm Harani | Origin: Atlanta, Georgia

In addition to the standard awards, the judges wished to recognize the accomplishments of Alice Barbe in the competition. Guthman judge Roger Linn went out of his way to explain why the Biot-Savharp impressed him so much, explaining the technology behind it to the crowd as a harpsichord that did not connect the keyboard to the harp strings - instead, it was actuated by magnets. When he went on to tell the crowd that she was a high school student that was double enrolled at Georgia Tech, the crowd audibly gasped, and responded with loud applause.

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.