Musical Instrument Competition

by dharris63

Earlier this semester the 2012 Margaret Guthman Musical Instrument Competition was held at Georgia Tech. This is an international event to gather people interested in designing new musical instruments and interfaces. This year there were twenty-four inventors selected to compete.

I was interested in this competition because I always want to hear more about how technology can enable unique artistic experiences. The lab I work in here at Tech works with tangible devices, so this competition is related to our research goals. Here are two performances that I found intriguing and how they can relate to GT’s work in tangible and embodied interactions.



This first video allows the user to manipulate sound by interacting with multiple cubes. You can rotate the cubes to change properties such as tempo. Perhaps more interestingly, placing certain cubes next to other cubes can trigger a unique reaction. I think that this is what makes this idea challenging to implement and interesting to use. The system will likely need to impose enough structure to keep the sound recognizable as a song. However, the cubes also allow the user to experiment a lot with how their relationships to other cubes can influence the piece. I like how the designer currently implements this (triggering new sound effects and changing musical instruments), but I would be interested in further experimentation in this space.



This second video is an example of embodied interaction (kind of). I really like the sound that the artist is able to produce with this instrument, but I’m not comfortable with the idea that embodied interaction should be limited by the “pockets” that the user is using to constrain his movements. It seems like he might just be imposing the structure of more traditional instruments on a new technology. I’m still on the lookout for an instrument than can produce the musical structure of a more constrained instrument, and allow for a full-body experience by the performer. If anybody has any good examples, please let me know!


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