Guthman Competition: Completely Dingue Instruments!!

Even when you believe that a sector has gone around what could be invented or even imagined, there are always great inventors to push the boundaries… This is the subject of the Guthman Musical Instrument Competition held at the Georgia Tech Center For Music Technology, a competition for new musical instruments with $10,000 in prizes to be shared among the 25 finalists of this first edition of the competition.

Winner of this premiere, Jaime Oliver and his Silent Drums who leaves with $5,000. The principle is very surprising… With his fingers he will distort the “skin” of his Silent Drums which is filmed by a camera whose signal is then processed by software that transforms the shapes into sounds and all that in real time! An impressive invention!

And there are 24 others, each as delirious as the other… Like a giant sudoku transformed into a musical “game”, the Toob a kind of hybrid between a trumpet and a Talk-Box, or the Air Guitar Midi Controller which as the name suggests makes it possible to make Air Guitar but coming out of sounds … Crazy, isn’t it?

I feel that their next editions are likely to be even crazier… Geeks of all stripes, sharpen your inventions!! You can see all the inventions of this first competition on wired.

Stone Instruments: Musical Instruments and Ceramic

The use of ceramic to make musical instruments has an ancient origin… Maybe not as old as ceramic itself but still! The Arabian darbuka (goblet drum or chalice drum) is a wonderful example of such instruments though the modern production tends to use metal or wood instead of the fragile ceramic! Browsing through the guitarz blog I came across a ceramic bodied guitar!!

What a rich idea… The instrument is decorative and pretty original. In the following video you can hear it, and though I think it could be perfectible I think it has some potential to play some roots folk music.

You can watch the making-of video of this guitar on the guitarz blog to hear Gabe Turow explaining further some of his choices and concerns (as the neck fixation that is rather strange)

Gabe Turow who is behind Stone Instruments exclusively builds ceramic musical instruments:

Percussions as ceramic has some very interesting percussive properties: darbouka, djembe, bongo, udu.
Stringed instruments: guitar, banjo, ukulele.
Thumb pianos (kalimba)

All of this reminds that one day I’ll have to bring back my old darbuka from my folks home. That day my neighbors will have a fair reason to hate me…

If you want to know more: check the Stone Instruments website and the Stone Instruments Youtube Channel that is stuffed with a lot of videos of Gabe Turow’s creations. Here are some pictures of his ceramic instruments:

Feeltune Rhizome: Ultimate Groove Machine?

Let’s talk about something not guitary at all… If I want to tell you about the Rhizome made by the French company Feeltune it is because this device is absolutely phenomenal but also because I was part of a panel gathered to test, and give their opinion about the Feeltune Rhizome. People attending these meetings were musicians pros, semi-pros, amateurs, and well me.

So I’ve been able to try the Rhizome a couple of times in very good conditions (few people, small room, and cattering), and I had an insight on the development of this device, and the process behind the conception over 1,5 year (more or less). The Rhizome is an instrument, a MIDI controller, and a computer designed for home-studio use as well as for live performances.

Obviously this is mostly made for Electronica, and Dance music but based on what I saw, and heard I am rather sure that it is quite versatile, and could be used for some other genres. The Rhizome comes with 40 VST and VSTi but it is made to import your own virtual instruments, and effects. The operating system of the machine is an optimized version of Windows XP, and that makes the Rhizome compatible with a wide variety if not the majority of available VST/VSTi. Obviously it also has a sequencer to compose, and for real-time recording what is played with the Virtual instruments.

I’ll quickly talk about the connectors as I don’t remember all the details but you’ll find them on Feeltune website. It has MIDI, and USB connectors which allow to plug a lot of hardware (an additional controller such as a keyboard controller to expand the possibilities offered by the 16 pads of the Rhizome). The Rhizome also has Audio inputs so that you can plug actual instruments instead of only using VSTi. Notice that we didn’t talk much about this feature as Nicolas Piau (inventor of the Rhizome, and founder of Feeltune) is mostly an Electronica dude.

Needless to say that the Rhizome is not easy to use in the first place (especially when you are not familiar with the MIDI controllers, and groove machines world) yet it is quite intuitive. And watching Nicolas live composing a tune from scratch is something rather impressive, and it suggests that a little training should allow you to quickly be able to put your first tunes together.

So the Rhizome is a solution entirely dedicated to computer music but it doesn’t require you to use the home computer because this workstation called The Rhizome is the computer, the sequencer, the controller, and the instrument! The Rhizome is to be launched around October. As for the price, it is not officially announced yet, and I’m not going to tell you the price the told us during the meetings as I signed a confidentiality agreement that I want to respect! [EDIT: I finished that note, and I checked the website that has been updated with the price ranging from 3 199€ to 3 599€]

Check that official demo video of the Rhizome…