Making Music: Guthman Competition combines music, art and technology

Gil Weinberg with Tyler White playing drums with a robotic arm.

Curious about the future of music? Then experience the most innovative instruments from across the globe at the Guthman Musical Instrument Competition Concert and Music, Art and Technology Fair at Georgia Tech on March 7.

“The musical competition is emblematic of how the music technology field has grown in Atlanta and beyond. There is also a thriving community of commercial musicians here and entrepreneurs. The competition is really about how we are teaching the next generation of students in music tech, how we are pushing the future through our research and what things have an opportunity to make it to market,” said Jason Freeman, Georgia Tech School of Music Professor and Chair.

The free concert will feature nine finalists selected from more than 100 musical inventor applicants from 21 countries.

“Each of those creators will share their stories with us – what is driving them to make something new, how it works, what their process was and also share a short performance with us,” Freeman said.  And to show how accessible these creations are, Atlanta area musicians will learn how to use them the day of the concert and perform, as well.

At the end of the evening, the judges will announce the Competition winners and audience favorites will also receive prizes.

Last year’s winner, Keith Groover, has taken his creation from prototype to production.

“Thanks to the Guthman competition, I made connections with people who have been able to help me in this next step of development and production and get The Glide in front of a lot of people,” Groover said.

The Glide is a melodic instrument based around accelerometers, tiny electronic devices that measure acceleration. The Glide has five buttons and a joystick used to select notes and is played by moving your arms and hands.  Just one year after winning, Groover is taking pre-orders at theglide.cc.

The robotic “Skywalker Hand” plays the piano.

I hope he’ll be as successful as the Seaboard,” said Freeman about past winner Roland Lamb’s invention. “It looks like a piano but is made out of silicone.”

The design of the Seaboard allows the musician to slide their fingers back and forth and apply varying degrees of pressure to make sounds you could never make on a traditional piano.  See and hear for yourself on YouTube, Introducing the Seaboard.

Georgia Tech’s School of Music, whose teaching and research explores the intersection of music, technology and science, is a fitting host for this international competition.
Students in Professor Gil Weinberg’s Robotic Musicianship Group, for example, are developing their own cutting edge music technology.

“We have two thrusts of research – one is about robots that can listen, understand music and improvise. The second thrust is prosthetics. We started by working with an amputee drummer. We developed an arm for him that was allowing him to bring back lost capabilities but then we extended it to allow him to play like no human can,” Weinberg said.

They’ve also developed a prosthetic “third arm” worn with a body garment that will open up a new realm of possibilities in sound and performance.

Associate Professor Grace Leslie works with students to develop ways to record physiological signals from the brain and the body and convert those signals into musical sound.

A robot called Shimon played the marimba while Caity Jimenez played the drums.

You’ll be able to some of these student projects at a new fair that runs from 4 to 7 p.m., right before the concert.

New this year, “we’ll have a Music, Art and Technology Fair where you can come in a more interactive, hands-on informal format and see projects from the Georgia Tech community but also from Atlanta and beyond. So, we encourage you to arrive early so you can take advantage of that before the concert,” Freeman said.

At both the fair and the concert, attendees are sure to expand their perspectives on music and potentially spark their own creativity.

“I’m excited to see multiple instruments that started as enabling instruments, for people with all kinds of disabilities, that grew to become instruments that anyone can play,” Weinberg said.

Reserve your free concert tickets at guthman.gatech.edu and learn more in our latest INtown Insiders podcast.

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