Technology/Music Mashup Leads to Accordion of the Future

The 2016 Moog Hackathon began Saturday morning with forty participants and a table piled with Moog parts. Forty-eight hours later, one sleep-deprived team walked away with a creation that could only be described as a “scrambobulator.”

A cross between a synthesizer, an accordion and a Theremin, the winning design is now the final entry in this Thursday’s Guthman Musical Instrument Competition, their own Moog Werkstatt synthesizer and $3000.

The Georgia Tech Center for Music Technology hosted the Hackathon which generated a huge range of musical instruments. Winners Greg Hendler and Mark Crowley (who won last year for a breath-controlled synthesizer guitar) said the competition was much harder this year and they really had no idea who would win on Sunday night.

The competition included "a multi-footswitch Bass guitar drone effect system that allows the player to select octaves of the drone at will; a multi-person interactive Werkstatt interface for iPads and iPhones; a box that projects colors and generates sound according to color; a playable electronic necktie; and even an electronic flute.

The pleasantries of Saturday morning’s coffee and team brainstorming soon gave way to furious coding which sounded like the techno rhythm background to experimental synthesizer “cshwa-wa-wa” drones. Divided into 13 teams, the hackers were learning to use Arduino Unos, Werstatts, a vast assortment of components and sensors, and seriously geeking out in the Couch Building.

By Saturday night, stale pizza, burnt solder and sheer determination were driving the teams on. Wooden housings for developing instruments were built, but the Hackathon room was mostly silent. The occasional “a ha!” moment marked transitions from quiet giggles of exhaustion to contagious rounds of yawns.

Fifteen hours in, it seemed like zombies had taken over the Hackathon. The bleary-eyed contestants made slow progress, challenged by the drone of the air conditioner and (ironically) melodic snores of their teammates.

With Sunday came a more frenetic pace. The contestants had to perform with their experimental instruments for a panel of judges led by Moog CEO Mike Adams. As the teams scrambled to make final touches and tweaks to their instruments, the room was a cacophony of “breeeap”, “wa-hah-shwoo” and “tic-tic-eee” sounds.

After all the instrument demos, these projects were the winners:

First place: The Big Eared Scrambler
Created by Greg Handler and Mark Crowley, the instrument is an accordion type synthesizer that is described as the "scrambobulator".  Greg and Mark were awarded entry into the Guthman Musical Instrument Competition, a Moog Werkstatt, and a $3000 dollar cash prize. 

Second place: The See-Saw
Created by Jonathan Wang, Nikhil Bhanu, and Avrosh Kumar, thier instrument is an interactive Iphone and Ipad case used to create music with friends. They were awarded a Moog Werkstatt and $2000 dollar cash prize.

Third place: The Electro-Flute
Created by Kenneth Swanson and Samuel Greene, their instrument converts wind into electronic synthesizer sounds that are controlled by touch. They were awarded a Moog Werkstatt and $1000 dollar cash prize. 

Honorable mention: The Kinect Theremin
Created by Andy Pruett, his instrument used body gestures to create synthesizer sounds.   

The 2016 Guthman Musical Instrument Competition will take place this Thursday, March 3, in the Robert Ferst Center for the Arts at 7:00 P.M. Called the “X-Prize for musical instruments” by Wired Magazine, the competition aims to identify the world's next generation of musical instruments, unveiling the best new ideas in musicality, design, and engineering.

Admission is free. For more information please visit www.guthman.gatech.edu.

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    2016 Moog Hackathon

For More Information Contact

Ann W. Hoevel
Director of Communication
Georgia Tech College of Architecture
ann.hoevel@coa.gatech.edu