Friday, December 28, 2012

The Theremin From Lenin To The Beach Boys.

The theremin was one of the worlds first electronic instruments and is most know for it's appearance in countless sci fi films. It was invented by a Russian engineer by the name of Lev Sergeyevich Termen or the Americanized Leon Theremin. He was working on an early version of sonar when he came up with a musical instrument. Vladimir Lenin was said to have adorned the device and sent it's inventor on a world tour. Theremin ended up in the US where he signed a contract with RCA who produced 500 of what they called the Thereminvox. These are highly prized items within the theremin world.

Theremin continued inventing in the 1930's opening up his own lab and working on other electronic music devices and an early version of the burglar alarm. Then in 1938 he disappeared as it turned out he was kidnapped by the KGB and returned to Russia where he was thrown in prison for years. He was released in the 1950's and went to work for the KBG working on a variety of espionage devices. Later on he became a music professor where he was “discovered” by an American writer.

His device was a commercial flop and languished in obscurity until it began turning up in film soundtracks and then later it was used in popular music most notably by The Beach Boys in “Good Vibrations”. The in 1993, filmmaker Steven M. Martin made the documentary “Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey”. The movie shows footage from the scientist’s career in New York and has live performances by both Theremin and Clara Rockmore, his most accomplished pupil. The end of the film shows a reunion between the professor and Rockmore after fifty years of being separated. It also features interviews with Theremin, Clara Rockmore, and Robert Moog. It is Mr. Moog who is a major force behind today’s theremin revival. And why not he has been building them for almost 60 years.

A couple of days ago I watched some theremin video on the recommendation of one of my viewers. This led me to assemble, on our MindsiMedia You Tube station, a playlist of theremin videos and some other odd musical instruments I came across in my research. I came across some interesting performance & performers and would now like to share them with you. Here is a video featuring one of todays more interesting theremin performers Pamelia Kurstin.

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