The electronic sound of the other-world, at a flick of the wrist
The Theremin player never actually touches the two antennas of the instrument. "Theremin players do it without touching", as BigBriar's bumper sticker once read. All sound, timbre and intonation comes from the movement of the hands of the player. In the hands - or technically not - of a skilled musician, the Theremin can be played beautifully; it's sound being somewhat between a violin and a musical saw. Clara Rockmore, the instrument's perhaps finest virtuoso, plays the Theremin on the near-top photo. Note the characteristic triangular loudspeaker.
Sadly, it never got to be known as the fine art solo instrument it was meant to be. It's sometimes eerie sound was on the other hand perfect for 30s, 40s and 50s horror, humour and sci-fi movies. "The day the Earth stood still" has perhaps the most famous Theremin score , with the instrument used as a sound effect. It's humour potensial can be seen in the 1957 "The Delicate Delinquent" (actually the first time I unwittingly saw a Theremin, was in this movie. I searched for years, not knowing what it was ...). The eerie sound following the main character's delirium tremens in "The lost weekend" from 1945 is of course a Theremin. But the Theremin also made some notable appearances in popular music. Most famous is actually it's non-appearance in the Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations"! The instrument played on this track is actually a Tannerin, a 50s "replacement" for the more difficult-to-play Theremin.
More to come!
Clara Rockmore's Method for Theremin. Pdf file, 16 pages.
User manual for the 1928 RCA Theremin. Pdf file, 10 pages.
Retro-ware: "Hendrix" simulator, with a Theremin feel. Only a vintage Macintosh SE/30 (yup, the Captain Nemo-style box with the FPU) could play it, and I think the OS was pre System 7 as well. Addictive ...
Big Briar (Moog Music. Look for Etherwave theremins)