Georgia Tech Announces Winners Guthman Musical Instrument Competition

Silent Drum, LEMUR GuitarBot and SLABS Touch Pads win top prizes

Georgia Tech's Center for Music Technology announced Jaime Oliver's Silent Drum won first place in first Guthman Musical Instrument Competition. The competition, supported by the philanthropic family of Tech alum Richard Guthman, showcased new uses of technology to enhance participation in music performance and music creation.

Nearly 30 inventors from seven countries performed on Georgia Tech's campus in the competition for more than $15,000 in prizes. Guest judges Eran Egozy, of video game development company Harmonix Music Systems, and digital music writer Eliot Van Buskirk joined the Georgia Tech Center for Music Technology to score the instruments for their musicality, design and engineering. Eric Singer from the League of Electronic Musical Urban Robots (LEMUR) won second place for his robotic guitar, and SLABS Touch Pads by David Wessel of the Center of New Music and Audio Technologies at the University of California, Berkeley, took third place.

"We were blown away by the diversity and quality of the competitors - it was great to see ideas from both commercial firms and academicians and just creative young musicians," said Tech music director Frank Clark. "Thanks to the Guthmans, we think the Musical Instrument Competition will expose new paradigms of expression year after year."

"It was a very open and competitive group of people with some very high quality instruments," said Oliver, a doctoral student at University of California, San Diego. "Judging was good and diverse, and technical support was great."

Oliver's instrument is a drum shell with an elastic spandex head, illuminated from the inside, that uses shapes and shadows to compute and control sound. Other entries included Sorisu, which responded and accompanies a player's movements in the game Soduko; the Tongue Music System; and a whimsical star-and-circle-shaped contraption with exposed wires that uttered slow, mysterious sounds.

"Since this was the first competition of its kind, it brought together people that had been working on the subject for decades," said Oliver. "Good competitions have a feedback effect and I wouldn't be surprised to see this one having an effect in the number and quality of instruments that are developed in the following years."

"Anyone that has an idea should come, get some feedback and perhaps win," said Oliver. "Many of us do this trying to find ways of realizing sound morphologies that contain the nuance of human performance, unsatisfied with complex automations, in need of performing, of feeling that materiality that sometimes electronic sounds lack."

The Georgia Institute of Technology is one of the world's premier research universities. Ranked seventh among U.S. News & World Report's top public universities and the eighth best engineering and information technology university in the world by Shanghai Jiao Tong University's Academic Ranking of World Universities, Georgia Tech’s more than 20,000 students are enrolled in its Colleges of Architecture, Computing, Engineering, Liberal Arts, Management and Sciences. Tech is among the nation's top producers of women and minority engineers. The Institute offers research opportunities to both undergraduate and graduate students and is home to more than 100 interdisciplinary units plus the Georgia Tech Research Institute.