Making instruments and music

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Imagine plucking, scratching and striking an 8-foot-tall magnetic percussion instrument. Or running your fingers over a futuristic-looking networked accordion designed with a unique layout of programmable keys. What about cracking open what appears to be a simple wooden cube to hack the electronic circuits inside and create your own sounds.

These inventions are among the 20 semi-finalists competing in an annual competition to find the next generation of music instruments.

The Margaret Guthman Musical Instrument Competition, held at the Georgia Institute of Technology, seeks to find the world’s best new ideas in musical instrument design, engineering and musicianship. Entries represent a dozen countries and expand our assumed notion of what constitutes an instrument and the sounds it can produce.

“This year we have seen a tremendous variety of high-quality submissions – from beautifully designed acoustic instruments to sophisticated electronic instruments utilizing wearable, mobile and robotic technologies,” said Gil Weinberg, director of the Georgia Tech Center for Music Technology.

The center, the School of Music, and the College of Architecture sponsor the competition. Contestants compete for $10,000 in prizes.

“In its seventh year, the competition has established itself as the place to go for those who want to get a glimpse of the future of musical performance and expression,” Weinberg said.

During this year's competition organizers will honor Richard Guthman, who recently passed away. Guthman, who graduated from Georgia Tech in 1956 with a degree in industrial engineering, founded the Margaret Guthman Keyboard Competition in 1988 as a tribute to his wife. The event evolved into the current musical instrument competition.

Judging the 20 semi-finalists are: DJ Hurricane, a producer and rapper who is best known for his work with the Beastie Boys; Graham Marsh, a Grammy award-winning producer, mixer and engineer who has worked with Ludacris, Bruno Mars and CeeLo Green; and Joe Paradiso, a physicist who designs electronic music synthesizers and directs the MIT Media Lab’s Responsive Environments Group.

And for the first time, the competition will also include a student challenge. Over 70 Georgia Tech students registered to participate in the Guthman Musical Instrument Design Challenge, sponsored by synthesizer maker Moog and the Georgia Tech Office of the Arts. Student winners will receive cash and in-kind prizes valued at more than $6,000. Participants will also get the chance to present their invention during the main Guthman Competition event.

Judges for the Student Design Challenge are: Michael Adams, CEO of Moog Music; Aaron Lanterman, a Georgia Tech professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering who specializes in digital signal processing; and Lee Lerner, a research scientist with the Georgia Tech Research Institute.

The main Guthman Competition will be held February 19 and 20 at the Klaus Advanced Computing Building on campus. The finals will be held February 20 from 7:00 – 9:00 pm on campus and are free and open to the public. The finals will also be live streamed. More information about the contest and live streaming can be found at



  • Workflow Status:Published
  • Created By:Laura Diamond
  • Created:01/12/2015
  • Modified By:Fletcher Moore
  • Modified:10/07/2016