2019 Margaret Guthman New Instrument Competition Winners Announced

The Georgia Tech School of Music has announced winners of the 2019 Margaret Guthman New Instrument Competition, the World Cup of musical instrument design.

Fourteen finalists met March 8-9, 2019 at Georgia Tech’s Ferst Center for the Arts to compete in front of a standing-room-only crowd. Each inventor had the opportunity to perform on stage in front of the capacity crowd. Judges Pamela Z, Roger Lynn and Ge Wang selected the winners, and the audience selected three People’s Choice Awards.

First place in the competition went to Keith Groover and The Glide – 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.

The Glide has been designed with accessibility in mind, so that ‘a wide range of people are able to play it regardless of physical ability, financial means, or prior musical knowledge’.

Second place in the competition went to Wizdom Music and GeoShred.

GeoShred is a software application that maximizes the performance possibilities of iOS devices, combining expressive multi-touch control with advanced physical modelling synthesis. It features alternate tunings, international scales and temperaments, gestural control, a built-in looper and more.

Third place was a tie, between Alon Ilsar’s AirSticks; and Enrico Vinholi & Ben Cooper’s Spinstruments.

The AirSticks are designed to combine the physicality of drumming with the possibilities of computer music. Using innovative software, AirSticks transform the 3D space around the user into a playable area.

The Spinstruments are programmed to play different sounds, in response to various types of movements. As a result, performances blend choreography and music.

Details on the 2019 Margaret Guthman New Instrument Competition are available at the Georgia Tech site.

2019 Guthman Musical Instrument Competition Final Concert

Photos: Georgia Tech

13 thoughts on “2019 Margaret Guthman New Instrument Competition Winners Announced

  1. As a pakeha Kiwi I am uncomfortable about the the appropriation of Maori Poi without cultural connection or acknowledgement. It is fairly considered inappropriate to use the costumes of other cultures as ‘fancy dress’ or party clothing. I think the same degree of respect should apply here.

    1. I’m getting really annoyed about this type of political and social correctness. So what if they’re influenced by another culture?

    1. It was really great. Not just the concert, but the lectures by the contestants, the concert by Pamela Z, and the lectures by Ge Wang and Roger Linn. I’m planning on going back next year even though I likely won’t have an instrument competing.

  2. I would argue that none of these are “instruments”, but are in fact “controllers”.

    I would further argue that nothing here is unique, or new. If hand wavy stuff was something special or actually added anything significant to a musical performance, it would have happened already.

    A simple iPhone app store search will reveal scads of accelerometer based apps, including the one they call out here. (Which even though it’s cool is just a digital variant of an MPC, Push, monome, etc and has been available for quite some time)

    And did these people miss the last 10 years of Xbox Kinect, Playstation Move, Vive, Occulus Rift and countless other also-ran controllers, all of which have been professionally and experimentally mapped to existing “instruments” and devices Remote control of existing devices has been going on for a very long time, and yet they never have gained traction. For instance, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=93iDhnBcMGo

    Search this very web site and you will find years worth of experiments in this vein. Or check out any of the Eigenharps to see this concept done as a real attempt. Visit pretty much any college campus today and you will find plenty of versions of this stuff going on.

    In the end, all of these control existing synthesizer/sampler technology. They offer nothing new because they still generate controller data, which gets mapped to an existing parameter in an existing “instrument”. Moving a device in real world space generates 3 sets of this data (XYZ values). So pick three to use… pitch, volume and vibrato for instance. Map incoming data to existing parameters that you might otherwise turn a knob for. Easy. These are no different than a game joystick, the many apps that turn phone positional data into control values, the Intellijel Planar 2, or whatever else you pick as a controller for your “instrument”.

    I will end by saying that I really love that people are experimenting in this space, or in any form of art, and sharing it with the world! But to give awards or claim you are doing something new is just ridiculous, and shows a stunning ignorance of other widespread technologies and industries that are already masters at this stuff. Collaborate with them instead of showboating on entry level stuff.

    1. “I would argue that none of these are “instruments”, but are in fact “controllers”.”

      That argument is getting pretty old and tired, when most of the music industry is now built around electronic instruments.

      1. I concur with the OP; more “funky” MIDI controllers for controlling the same electronic instruments that most of the music industry is already using. Not my thing, but to each his own. Id take a REAL analog theremin with its heterodyne-generated audio over some Nintendo Wii controller-connected soft synth any day

  3. Xtopher

    It’s really surprising to see such a pedantic and reductive comment coming from a fellow electronic musician.

    The point of a competition like this is not to avoid using technology that others have used. It’s to celebrate people using technology in interesting and musical ways.

    You’ve got your right to your opinion on whether the competitors are successful at doing that. But frankly, the opinion of a random anonymous Internet user doesn’t carry much weight, in comparison to the opinions of experts, like Roger Linn, that were actually at the competition to judge these instruments.

    Comments like “If hand wavy stuff was something special or actually added anything significant to a musical performance, it would have happened already.” suggest a fundamental ignorance of the existence of gestural instruments like the Theremin – an iconically ‘hand wavy’ instrument. And to suggest that there’s not room to improve on an instrument like the Theremin using today’s technologies would be absurd.

    Furthermore, to argue that these people are ‘showboating’ is just rude and juvenile.

    It’s puzzling why a new instrument design competition would trigger your sad and unfortunate response. Many of us would much rather see a competition relating to music and technology than another ‘sportsball’ event.

    If you’re not interested in the possibilities created by music technology, why in the world are you visiting a site like Synthtopia?

  4. It’s interesting to me to see what types of things people are coming up with, and also to see how some people always seem to have a ‘meh’ reaction.

    I am always torn between two ideas when I see instrument designs that are ‘out there’:

    First – I’d like to see the musicians play some Bach, because that would ‘prove’ that its a ‘real instrument’.

    Second – I see it from the ‘Buchla perspective’ – that new music isn’t going to come from instruments designed with the limitations of old instruments.

    I lean more towards the latter, because most of the music that I listen to is performed on instruments that do things that weren’t possible 50 years ago.

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