Inventors Compete in Second Annual Musical Instrument Competition

Competitors from around the world showcase their new instruments in the Guthman Musical Instrument Competition

This Friday and Saturday, musician inventors from around the world will convene at the Georgia Tech Center for Music Technology for what Wired.com likens to a low-stakes X-Prize for music. It is the second annual Guthman Musical Instrument Competition, where artists, musicians and entrepreneurs with radical new ideas for music performance and technology battle it out for $10,000 in cash prizes.

Guthman Musical Instrument 2009 Winner Silent Drum
Click image to enlarge

2009 Guthman Musical Instrument Competition Winner.  The Silent Drum.

“We will host 24 performers creating the vanguard of coming revolutions in music and all things related,” said Frank Clark, chair of Georgia Tech’s School of Music.   “The eight finalists will perform on Saturday.”

The two-day event is free and open to the public, and includes:

  • Preliminary performances in the Couch Building and West Architecture Building atrium throughout Friday
  • A panel discussion among judges at noon on Saturday in the Couch Building
  • Final performances and awards on Saturday beginning at 1 p.m. in the Couch Building

“The competition lets us showcase this interdisciplinary field at Georgia Tech, and allows us to push forward our own research agendas and unique talent,” said Jason Freeman, assistant professor of music.  “This year we had 54 entries submitted, up from approximately 30 entries competing last year.  So the group appearing this year went through an even more rigorous selection process.”

The competition is supported by the philanthropy of alumnus Richard Guthman in honor of his musical wife, Margaret. The family’s dedication to music and young musicians began more than a decade ago when they sponsored a national keyboard competition at Georgia Tech. On the heels of the launch of the new Center for Music Technology, the Guthman family and the School of Music took the competition in this new direction to reflect Georgia Tech’s role as a center of innovation.

An expert panel of judges will review entries based on musicality, design and engineering, for prizes of $5,000 for first place, $3,000 for second place and $2,000 for third place.

Judges include:

  • Gil Weinberg, Director, Georgia Tech Center for Music Technology
  • Eliot Van Buskirk, Music Reporter for Wired.com
  • Johannes Goebel, Founding Director of Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
  • Tod Machover, Professor and Director of Hyperinstruments/Opera of the Future Group at MIT Media Lab


Last year, 30 inventors from seven countries performed on Georgia Tech’s campus in the Guthman Competition. The winning instrument was a “silent drum” made of a drum shell with an elastic spandex head, illuminated from the inside, that uses shapes and shadows to compute and control sound. A robotic guitar took second place. Other entries included Sorisu, which responds to 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 utters slow, mysterious sounds.

“We were thrilled by the diversity and quality of the competitors. It was absolutely inspiring to see such a range and diversity of ideas from commercial firms, academicians and creative young musicians,” said Clark. “Thanks to the Guthmans, this competition will expose new paradigms of expression year after year.”

See highlights from the 2009 competition at Wired.com.

Please visit the online map for building locations. Suggested parking is in the State Street Visitor Lot on Ferst Drive, between Hemphill and State Street. For more information, contact Leslie Bennett at 404-385-7642 or leslie.bennett@music.gatech.edu.

The Georgia Tech Center for Music Technology is an international center for creative and technological research in music that is redefining the way that music is created, performed, listened to and consumed. It is a unit of the College of Architecture at Georgia Tech, and jointly funded by the Office of the Provost and the Colleges of  Architecture, Computing and Engineering.

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.