Guthman Musical Instrument Competition at GaTech

Went to see the 10 finalists in the Guthman Musical Instrument Competition at GaTech tonight. It was fantastic. Here’s a link to all of the semi-finalists.

I particularly enjoyed (click on the musician or instrument name for more information):

Uday Shankar – Chitravenu
Tolgahan Cogulu – Adjustable Microtonal Guitar [YouTube video of him playing the guitar] [Microtonal Spanish Love Song YouTube video]
Feng Gao – TRI-O[YouTube Video]

And my second tier:

Teenage Engineering – OP-1
nu desine – AlphaSphere

Chitravenu, in particular, was created by a biomedical engineer previously at GaTech. It was a flutish instrument with an unusual mechanism that gave it a continuous scale, and with a zither-like instrument attached to provide resonances. He played some Indian music with a drone machine as background, then later he played us some Mississippi blues.

The Microtonal Guitar was an 8-string gutar that he made, and it actually had a mechanism he had invented with movable frets to tune the guitar to different microtonal scales. He was an excellent musician, and a great thinker/engineer with his design innovations.

TRI-O was a mechanism that introduced delays and tempo changes in a midi performance of Bach’s Goldberg variations. He exaggerated it during the competition so that we would hear the effect, but even then, it produced a very cognitively appealing human-sounding performance. The mechanism was also aesthetically appealing, three little turntables on a small board, each with a bolt sticking out of it, and the parameters of delay defined by the triangle created by the three bolts as the turntables turned at different speeds.

I listened to a couple of albums we talked about last week, Yes’ “The Yes Album” on the way to the competition, and Pink Floyd’s “Echoes” hits collection on the way back. I have listened to music very differently since my accident, and in some strange way, every time I listen to an album, it feels like the first time I have listened to it. Not as much as right after the accident, but still something like that. So I appreciated the Yes Album on the way down there (I walked to MARTA), and heard elements in the music I’d never noticed before. But after the competition, which takes music apart and reassembles it in many different ways, my mind REALLY took Pink Floyd apart, and I see several different periods of their music in a different way, now, and see the way they took the blues and made little twists here and there to create something new.

Oh, I also listened to the end of the Yes Album afterwards, so I got the new perspective on Perpetual Change, The Venture, and Starship Trooper.

It was a great experience. One of my last memories before my accident is a week or two before, when Alex and I went down to GaTech to see an experimental asian drum that would learn rhythms you played on it, and play a composition with you based on your rhythms. I love the groups at Georgia Tech that work at the interfaces between art, design, and engineering.

North American Discworld Convention 3 in Baltimore

I gave two sessions at the North American Discworld Convention in Baltimore last weekend, one on Posterior Cortical Atrophy, the form of Alzheimer’s Disease that afflicts Terry Pratchett, and one on “Headology,” Sir Pterry’s term used throughout his books to refer to practical psychology combined with practical philosophy of mind. I have posted the slides and my notes on the slides here.

Please let me know if I should add any more material to the notes to clarify the presentations. I spent time in preparing the slides and I was quite familiar with the material.