The Margaret Guthman Musical Instrument Competition

g_tech_montage_webWelcome to the Margaret Guthman Musical Instrument Competition – – An Interview with Professor Jason Freeman, Georgia Tech

What is the Guthman Musical Instrument Competition?
The Margaret Guthman Musical Instrument Competition is an annual competition, held at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, to find the world’s best new musical instruments. Each year, 20-25 semi-finalists from around the world are selected from an open call to present their innovative instrument designs at the competition and to compete for $10,000 in cash prizes. They demonstrate their instruments to a panel of judges, describing their design, engineering, and musical features, and a select group of finalists present their instruments in a culminating concert open to the public. Past judges have included notable musicians (such as performance artist Laurie Anderson), researchers (such as the MIT Media Lab’s Tod Machover), entrepreneurs (such as Harmonix founder Eran Ergozi), and instrument makers (such as Tom Oberheim), as well as faculty from Georgia Tech’s Center for Music Technology.

Where are you in the process with the Guthman Competition?
The open call for submissions for the 2014 competition will end on October 18th, 2013, at which point faculty at the Georgia Tech Center for Music Technology will identify semi-finalists to invite to Atlanta to participate in the competition, which takes place February 20 and 21, 2014.

Who participates in the Guthman Competition?
We are proud of the diversity of entrants in the competition, which range from hobbyist instrument builders to artists and musicians to startup companies and from students to professors to CEOs. Our semi-finalists come from all around the United States and from abroad to compete.

Who/what products won previous Guthman Competitions?
Examples include Keith McMillen’s K-Bow (, a wireless sensor violin bow currently in commercial production; Eric Singer’s robotic GuitarBot (; The Interlude Consortium’s MO (, a system that enables everyday objects to turn into powerful gestural music controllers; and Marco Donnarumma’s Xth Sense (, an open-source project for making music from muscle sensors.

Do people ever submit guitar products or products that can be used for guitar in the Guthman Competition?
A significant number of entries relate to the guitar, ranging from completely new musical controllers that borrow guitar-playing techniques (like Langdon Crawford’s air guitars, to new approaches to transforming the physical sounds guitars themselves make (like Amit Zoran’s Chameleon Guitar,

How can companies in the music products industry get involved in the Guthman Competition?
We are always interested in discussing opportunities with companies in the industry, including joining the competition as sponsors or sponsoring a specific new award in an area of interest. We think the competition is a great way for companies to see the range of innovation in the field of instrument design and to engage directly with small and independent instrument creators.

Is the Guthman Competition an incubator for the music products industry?
Our competition showcases and celebrates the variety of activities in instrument design and development going on today, with a focus on innovation. Some of our entrants already have built successful small businesses around their instruments, others are disseminating the results of their work through more academically-oriented publishing channels, and others are primarily designing new instruments to serve their personal artistic goals. Year after year, we see compelling visions about how people can make music in new, unique, and expressive ways, and we see some of the best of these ideas percolate into the marketplace.

Where do see the competition going in the next five years?
We want to do more to share the amazing work featured in the competition with a broader audience, including musicians interested in performing with new instruments, companies interested in commercializing new designs, and a general public excited to learn how technology is continuing to transform the ways we create music.

Do you think the next great innovation or revolutionary new instrument will come out of the Guthman Competition?
I’m personally skeptical that a big-picture revolutionary new instrument is on the horizon. I think the revolution is already here: that anyone with a laptop, a circuit board like an Arduino, some sensors, and some basic skills can start designing and building and customizing their own musical instruments. I think the Guthman Competition is a tremendous example of how low the barriers to entry in instrument design have become. I think the next great innovation will be our ability to make instruments infinitely adaptable and flexible.

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j_freeman_web Jason Freeman’s works break down conventional barriers between composers, performers, and listeners, using cutting-edge technology and unconventional notation to turn audiences and musicians into compositional collaborators. His music has been performed by the American Composers Orchestra, Speculum Musicae, the So Percussion Group, the Rova Saxophone Quartet, the Nieuw Ensemble, Le Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, and Evan Ziporyn; and his works have been featured at the Lincoln Center Festival, the Boston CyberArt Festival, 01SJ, and the Transmediale Festival and featured in the New York Times and on National Public Radio. N.A.G. (Network Auralization for Gnutella) (2003), a commission from, was described by Billboard as “…an example of the web’s mind-expanding possibilities.”

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