We all love pianos, drums, guitars. But might an instrument invented today become a revered music-maker of the future? Maybe . . . a guitar you hit, a barbecue grill with strings, or a musical floor? All these and more entered this year’s Guthman Musical Instrument Competition in Atlanta, Georgia.
This year’s winner, American Keith Baxter, designed his Zen flute for accessibility as well as beauty. Many instruments require years of disciplined practice for mastery. That’s not the case with this one.
Baxter’s soothing mouth-flute acts kind of like a theremin, an electronic instrument controlled by (but not touched by) waving hands. The Zen flute’s pitch is created by the shape the player makes with his or her mouth. A far cry from tough-to-master instruments such as the violin, French horn, or bagpipes, playing the Zen flute feels more like learning to whistle.
American Elias Jarzombek took second place with his buzzing and whirring innovation, the Abacusynth. Named for an ancient math tool—the abacus—the Abacusynth is both teaching tool and music maker. The abacus uses beads to teach numbers. This uses spinning triangles to teach timbre. (Timbre is the way music sounds—but not its pitch or volume. Does a piano sound like a saxophone? Nope—because they produce notes with differing timbres.) As the Abacusynth player moves the spinning triangles, the timbre, or “tone color,” changes. The Abacusynth also took the People’s Choice prize at Guthman.
Third place went to the HiTAR, which is exactly what it sounds like: a guitar you hit. With sensors embedded at its base, the instrument makes a sound like metal or glass when struck by the player. It’s both an acoustic and a percussive instrument.
Runners-up included Stefan Licheri of Venezuela and Australians Iran Sanadzadeh and Sebastian Collen. Licheri submitted the Grillophone, an instrument made from a grill with strings and bars. The instrument connects to other digital instruments and uses an amplifier to make the sounds they make. Sanadzadeh and Collen entered the terpsichora pressure-sensitive floors, aka The Floors. Sensors in this set of wooden platforms respond to performers redistributing bodyweight across them. The performers can also change the music by rearranging the floor in different patterns.
The Bible mentions one of history’s first musicians—Jubal who “was the father of all who play stringed instruments and pipes.” (Genesis 4:21) Do you have an idea for an instrument using an ordinary household object? Try it. Test it and make changes. Maybe one day we’ll see your name as a Guthman finalist.
Why? The creative work of instrument-making is a gift from God . . . and far from finished. Advances in musical invention continue. They can be for the glory and praise of God.
thats really cool!
I don’t know what to think
I myself play multiple instruments. I love the idea of new instruments, but I love the traditional instruments such as the guitar and piano. I don’t want to replace them with these new instruments.
that is cool
They won’t replace those instruments there will just be more instruments