Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Leon Theremin, Inventor of the Theremin: a Weird-Sounding Instrument

"Nov. 3, 1993: Theremin Fades Out"
This Day in Tech, Wired Magazine (November 2, 2009)

"1993: Leon Theremin dies in Moscow. The Russian-born inventor leaves behind a legacy that touches several technical and creative disciplines.

"During his 97 years, Theremin left his indelible mark on the fields of science, radio and television broadcasting, espionage, electromagnetic circuitry design and, most famously, music.

"The electronic instrument of his design which also bears his name — by all accounts the first electronic musical instrument — is notable for its whooping and sliding high-pitched squeal. The theremin has influenced popular music, classical music, television and film soundtracks, and the musical avant-garde...."

Quite a set of accomplishments.

And, wouldn't you know it: There's a website devoted to the theremin: www.thereminworld.com. I did a little checking elsewhere, and there's a theremin kit available for $120. Another, apparently already built, goes for $499: not unreasonable for a serious musical instrument.

Leon Theremin had learned to play the cello as a child, which I think helps explain his skill with his new instrument.

The first theremin was built in 1920, according to the Wired article. Different articles give slightly different dates for the theremin's history - but it does seem to have been developed right around 1920.

More, about Leon Theremin and the theremin: "Leon Theremin playing his own instrument"

slonikyouth, YouTube (January 14, 2008)
video, 1:33

That video isn't 'special effects.' He's actually playing the theremin. You do it by moving your hands around in the electrical field surrounding the antennae.

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