The 2012 Margaret Guthman Musical Instrument Competition

The Margaret Guthman Musical Instrument Competition – an annual event to find the world’s best new ideas in musicality, design, and engineering – is being held today at the Georgia Tech Center For Music Technology.

Instruments will be judged on musicality, design and engineering by an expert panel including Atau Tanaka, media artist and researcher, and Cyril Lance, chief engineer at electronic musical instrument manufacturer Moog Music.

“There is a disruptive power in questioning traditional musical roles of authorship and performance. Through this questioning, the basic tenets of musical instrumentality come to light,” notes Tanaka.

Twenty-four inventors, composers and designers from nine countries were selected to compete, from more than 50 entries. For a taste of the kinds of instruments that will be presented in the competition, here are four examples from this year’s entrant pool:

  • Resistor JelTone, a partially edible toy piano by Brooklyn-based hacker collective, NYC Resistor;
  • Audio Cube, a set of smart light-emitting blocks for music creation designed by Bert Schiettecatte of Belgium (with competition performance by Colorado-based electronic musician Mark Mosher).
  • Hyperkeys, a keyboard, with keys that move in-and-out as well as up-and-down, by Jeff Tripp; and
  • Audio Skin, incorporating on-body textiles in a sculptural and performative musical instrument, by Vienna, Austria-based Martin Rille.

The video embedded above captures Brett Park playing on the Rainboard. See below for more examples.

$10,000 in cash prizes will be awarded to the most exciting novel musical instruments and presented by Tech alumnus Richard Guthman in honor of his musician wife, Margaret.

Final performances will be webcast live at No log-on is required, and the site will feature live chat and segments from preliminary performances.

The preliminary schedule follows:

Friday, February 17:

  • Preliminary Performances, 9:20 a.m. – 12:20 p.m.
  • Announcement of Finalists, 2:00 p.m.
  • Final Performances, 7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
  • Reception and Awards, 8:30 p.m.

Past competitions have hosted a broad range of inventions, including last year’s winner, MO, by Interlude Consortium, the software that explores novel gestural interfaces for musical expression with everyday objects; and second prize winner MindBox Media Slot Machine, by German group Humatic Berlin, a vintage slot machine with an unexpected modern twist on the age-old tradition of canon composition.

Here are more examples of the new instruments and performers participating at the competition:

Above, Bojan Gagic’s Lighttune. G.

Jim Thompson demonstrates the Space Palette.

Martin Rille performs Coded Sensation.

Jiffer Harriman’s Quadrofeelia.

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