The 2014 Margaret Guthman Musical Instrument Competition finals were held Friday, February 21st, with winners hailing from five different countries. An expert panel of judges comprised of David Zicarelli (founder and CEO of Cycling ’74), Chris Moore (composer, performer and Georgia Tech professor), and Young Guru (Grammy-nominated engineer to Jay-Z) evaluated the 20 inventors on musicality, design and engineering. Additionally, three People’s Choice awards, chosen by the standing-room-only crowd in attendance, were given for Best Performance, Best Instrument and Most Unusual Instrument.
First place went to Tolgahan Cogulu and his adjustable microtonal guitar. Swedish company Teenage Engineering came in second with their synthesizer the OP-1, and New York University music technology student Gao Jiafeng with TRI-O brought home third. The People’s Choice awards went to Tolgahan Cogulu (best performance), the Alphasphere (best instrument) and the Tree Guitar (most unusual instrument).
Overall winner Tolgahan Cogulu hails from Turkey where he received both Master of Music and Ph.D. degrees in classical guitar from Istanbul Technical University’s Center for Advanced Studies in Music. His instrument allows for microtonal tunings used in non-western musical traditions to be accessed on a classical guitar by sliding or adding extra frets in specific locations on his patented fret board track. Cogulu currently teaches at the Istanbul Technical University, Turkish Music State Conservatory and Center for Advanced Studies in Music where he is working as an associate professor of guitar.
Swedish company Teenage Engineering took second place with their synthesizer the OP-1. The OP-1 is a portable music workstation incorporating a synthesizer, sampler, sequencer, multitrack recorder, drum machine, mixer and controller. Developed in Stockholm, the OP-1 was first released in late 2011. The device is the focal point of the 2010 music video for One by Swedish House Mafia.
Gao Jiafeng, a Chinese national who currently studies at New York University, received the third place prize for his algorithmic MIDI controller the TRI-O. The TRI-O is a controller that uses the lengths and area of an ever-changing triangle to allow for a more dynamic musical experience.
In total, $10,000 in cash prizes were awarded and presented by Tech alumnus Richard Guthman in honor of his musician wife, Margaret. The event is considered a hotbed for musicians and artists who are pushing the boundaries of music performance. Wired.com has called it the “X-Prize for music,” and contestants have likened it to a TED Conference for new musical instrument designers.