Classical Music Forum banner
1 - 20 of 38 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,002 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
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?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
415 Posts
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!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7 Posts
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.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
284 Posts
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.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
706 Posts
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.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
6,236 Posts
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


and another one that is earlier:


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

 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,924 Posts
I got to play one, its a little abstract the relayion between your movements and the sounds produced.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
186 Posts
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.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,725 Posts
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.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
398 Posts

it actually sounds quite amazing here
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,222 Posts
There are quite a few clips on Youtube relating to this.
Some of them are very early and have the inventors daughter playing one
It looks as though it is very difficult to master, as you can tell by the various quality of the sounds on some of the clips.
However it is a facinating instrument
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,387 Posts
Varese used a fingerboard Theremin, also known as the Theremin Cello.

"Ecuatorial" by Varese, was scored for bass voice (or chorus of basses), brass, keyboard, percussion, and two electronic instruments built for Varèse by the inventor Leon Theremin (a later revision substituted two ondes Martenots for the Theremins).

Newspaper Font Working animal Newsprint News
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
93 Posts
There is a number of articles about Theremin in Wikipedia, all describing the inventor, his life and Theremin in fair details.

It mentions that at the height of its popularity in the 1930-s, there was a performance of multiple Theremins (*?) in Carnegie Hall. Also, it appears Theremin was not kidnapped, but left the US voluntarily, though somehow in secret, and was working, until retirement, in a number of "black" KGB research organizations. There he invented, for one, an ingenious eavesdropping device that was planted in the US Ambassy in Moscow and functioned for a number of years until, with great difficulty, it was finally found.
 
1 - 20 of 38 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.
Top