Updated: Mar 17, 2020
By Jayson Kerr Dobney
Every musical instrument starts as an idea. Someone has a creative spark to make a new sound or improve on an old one and this can lead in many directions. It seems obvious, but some instruments become such a part of our daily life that it can be forgotten that they all start with someone's creativity. I was reminded of this fundamental truth recently when I attended the Guthman Musical Instrument Competition at Georgia Tech University in Atlanta on March 6th and 7th.
First held in 2009, this competition has become enormously successful, with some past entrants having gone on to become commercial products. This year, more than one hundred inventors from twenty countries applied to the competition in hopes of becoming a finalist that got to travel to Atlanta to present their instruments to a panel of judges and compete for three cash prizes. On March 7th, nine finalists presented their instruments in a showcase performance in front of a packed auditorium of more than 1500 spectators on the campus of Georgia Tech. Here are some of my notes and thoughts about the finalists presented there.
First Prize: ElectroSpit
Instrument Inventor Bosko demonstrates the neck-worn ElectroSpit activated by his iPhone
The 2020 First Prize winner, as well as the audience favorite (voted on by attendees at the event itself) was the ElectroSpit Mobile Talkbox. Those familiar with a traditional talkbox know that it is an effect that allows a performer to modify the sound of an electric guitar or keyboard with effects from the human voice. The first instrument of this type was used by the pioneering electric guitarist Alvino Rey in 1939. Later examples that were more widely available included a tube that had to be inserted into a player's mouth. Due to this awkwardness, the instrument was more commonly found in recording studios than on stages. The inventors of the ElectroSpit, have created an updated talk box with a device that can be comfortably worn around the neck (No Tubes) and shared. It is also wireless and can be used with an electric guitar, keyboard, or directly from an iPhone as was demonstrated at the event. To have a better understanding of the ElectroSpit check out this video promotion of the instrument.
Second Prize: MEMO/MOVE Second prize was awarded to Krzysztof Cybulski of Warsaw, Poland and his musical instrument named MEMO/MOVE. The instrument uses three motorized faders that allow a performer to easily create loops and to visually see the sequences of those loops. As the faders function as midi-controllers, there are endless possibilities for the types of sounds that MEMO/MOVE can create. Here is a video that shows how the instrument can be used:
Third Prize: the Svampolin