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Thread: The Theremin

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    Senior Member Edward Elgar's Avatar
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    Default The Theremin

    What an unusual yet delightful modern instrument! A good Japanese violinist got ill and couldn't carry on her instrument so she took up the theremin instead! It's used in film scores a lot.

    Has anyone else played a theremin? If so - what did you think?
    When all the paint has been dried, when all the stone has been carved, music shall remain, and we shall work with what remains.

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    Senior Member Edward Elgar's Avatar
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    When all the paint has been dried, when all the stone has been carved, music shall remain, and we shall work with what remains.

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    Senior Member Frasier's Avatar
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    I actually made one of those a while ago. The famous modern solo is in Messaien's Turangalila Symphony (about the only movement I can stomach), where it appears as an "ondes martentot", an instrument outwardly slightly different but on the same electronic principles.

    I wouldn't recomment buying a recording unless you're happy with Messaien on his bad hair days. Just this movement stands out as quite lyrical!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Edward Elgar View Post
    What an unusual yet delightful modern instrument! A good Japanese violinist got ill and couldn't carry on her instrument so she took up the theremin instead! It's used in film scores a lot.

    Has anyone else played a theremin? If so - what did you think?

    I want a Theramin SOO bad! "The Flaming Lips" use one during live shows., it's pretty gnarly.

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    the ones one've seen were cone shaped.

    dj

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    Senior Member Mark Harwood's Avatar
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    VF, do some research before you buy one. There are several types. You can build one from a circuit diagram. A good 'un gives you control of volume as well as pitch. It's said that there is a great deal of skill in playing one well, but there's certainly fun to be had.
    Led Zeppelin used one on stage. My friend Graham, the name of whose band doesn't bear repeating on a family site, uses one in free-form improvisations. I'd like one too, but have friends, family and musical colleagues to consider.
    "Music is a social act of communication among people, a gesture of friendship, the strongest there is."
    - Malcolm Arnold.

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    Senior Member Lisztfreak's Avatar
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    I prefer the Ondes Martenot. It's somehow of a more pleasant sound. I've seen an excellent clip of an old virtuoso martenotist on Youtube. It's an educational video, you can learn the basic principles of the instrument watching it.

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    Senior Member joen_cph's Avatar
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    There is an unusually fine documentary about the theremin, its inventor and main protagonists
    - including the virtuoso Clara Rockmore - by Steven M. Martin ("Theremin. An Electronic Odyssey",
    1995). Theremin, a Russian of origin, made a career with his instrument in the US in the 20s, but was kidnapped by the KGB and lived a forgotten existence in the USSR for decades. Shortly before his death,
    he made a return trip to the US, meeting Rockmore and others.

    However, I must agree with the opinions that the sound of the instrument itself (it is played by moving your hands with simple gestures above the instrument, without actually touching it) is hardly a very pleasant one, an impression also strengthened by the documentary´s selection of slow and sentimental music-making. Originally, though, Rockmore was able to play fast, like a violin virtuoso, and the theremin was also of interest to the avant-garde as well as science fiction filmmakers ("The Day the Earth Stood Still"), thriller soundtracks and early rock music (The Beach Boys)..

    There is a you-tube clip of Theremin from the USSR 1954

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w5qf9O6c20o

    and another one that is earlier:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RbaG5...eature=related

    as well as, for instance, a typically bizarre "The Swan" with the elderly Rockmore

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pSzTP...eature=related
    Last edited by joen_cph; Apr-17-2010 at 20:43.

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    Senior Member emiellucifuge's Avatar
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    I got to play one, its a little abstract the relayion between your movements and the sounds produced.

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    It's been used by quite a few pop and rock acts including the Beach Boys and one of my favorites, Matthew Sweet.

    I also saw a great piece on TV which talked about Theremin's work as a spy for the KGB. He invented one of the most ingenious listening devices ever.

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    The Beach Boys' song Good Vibrations famously uses the Theremin (at 25 seconds in).

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    Senior Member Argus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Delicious Manager View Post
    The Beach Boys' song Good Vibrations famously uses the Theremin (at 25 seconds in).
    That's actually a Tannerin (or Electro-Theremin). Quite similar sound to the original theremin but with very different controls. The inventor actually performed the part in that Beach Boys song.

    Like people have said, the sound of an unaffected theremin is a bit one dimensional, but the idea of having analogous control of pitch and volume just by moving your hands is ingenius. I'd like to get one and run it through some effects to see what I could coax out of it. The continuos glissando would become annoying but if you were to use a volume pedal to kill sound between tones it might sound more solid, a bit like a pedal steel guitar gone crazy.

    Also, they look extremely hard to play well.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Argus View Post
    That's actually a Tannerin (or Electro-Theremin). a bit like a pedal steel guitar gone crazy.
    What, you mean there is a pedal steel that HASN'T gone crazy?

    I've always wanted to get a pedal steel. Awesome instrument.

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    Senior Member Igneous01's Avatar
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    it actually sounds quite amazing here

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    Senior Member Vaneyes's Avatar
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    A recent BBC article on Leon Theremin (1896 - 1993)...

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-17340257

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