Once an inventor decides on the form their instrument will take and how it will produce sound, the next step is to build it. But constructing a new instrument isn’t easy. It took Lim’s team a year to build a working prototype, or testable model, of the electromagnetic piano. “There were a couple of times when we used too much power,” says Lim. “We fried the electromagnet, and smoke started coming out of it!”
Michigan-based artist Brian Alexander earned second place in this year’s competition with his invention, the Synescope. His instrument lets you hear what images “sound” like. A picture is placed on a spinning platter.
As it spins, changes in color, contrast, and reflectivity—how light bounces off a surface—trigger a computer to create a note, change the pitch, or adjust the duration of a sound. For Alexander, building the Synescope was a learning experience. He was constantly surprised by the sounds it made.
Above all, “you have to work hard to turn your idea into reality,” says Tolgahan Çoğulu, Atlas’s father and co-creator of the LEGO microtonal guitar. His and Atlas’s efforts earned them the “People’s Choice” award in the Guthman competition. “If you dream something,” says Tolgahan, “never give up.”