March 15, 2005

The Theremin was invented by Lev Sergeivitch Termen (anglacized to Leon Theremin) in 1919. It uses Electromagnectic Induction to control pitch and volume. It produces an eerie, whistling sound associated by many with early horror films.

Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys used the theremin to great effect in the song Good Vibrations. Other bands to use the theremin include Portishead, The Polyphonic Spree, and Nine Inch Nails. Robert Moog has said that the theremin was what got him into the Synthesizer business. There There is still an extensive theremin community. Some audio samples can be heard here and here. Thanks to goofyfoot, Wolof, and SideDish for the inspiration.

  • Good post, Robotnik! And if it's a double, I can't find the first one.
  • And note that the invisible hand of Ms Hope is sometimes extremely rapid.
  • Portishead, The Polyphonic Spree, and Nine Inch Nails?? *ahem*Jimmy Page*ahem*
  • I like this sort of post. It makes me learn stuff.
  • Bill Bailey
  • isn't that Mrs. Hope?
  • Not if our secret plan works out wa ha haa ha HA AHWWA HA AHAAA HAAHAHA HAAAA HAA oh wait forget I said anything.
  • as kitfisto points out, bill bailey sometimes uses a theremin in his comedy set.
  • I recommend the documentary film Theremin. It's really good.
  • Second the documentary. There was a recent release of a commercial theremin . . .somewhere amongst the guitar effects I think. Elvis costello (or, more accurately, Steve Nieve) used one on the last tour. Stuck his face in it. Bonus points for being posted by Dr. Robtonik. )))!
  • Robotnik . . .apologies - dangnable manual keyboards . . .
  • now i'll have the beach boys' "good vibrations" stuck in my head all day.
  • When I saw Man... or Astro Man a few years ago they used a theremin. They cemented their place in my heart when they set the sucker on fire and worshipped it a la Hendrix. Very cool. (I expected it to make odd sounds while on fire, but it didn't really.)
  • Yo La Tengo brought one with them on tour in the mid 90's.
  • New product idea: Theramints!
  • s/b "Theremints," but what the hell.
  • For what it's worth (and because I'm a needless pedant) what Brian Wilson played wasn't an ACTUAL Theremin but rather a doohickey called an Electro-Theremin which produces roughly the same sound, but is controlled more reliably with sliders. (and he had a similar device to play the song live) A real Theremin, in all its hand-waving glory, is much more difficult to play reliably, especially in concert, since its tuning can be thrown off by so little as a change in air pressure or humidity. (NIN, conversely, DOES have a real Theremin) And surely some shouts should go out to legendary composer Bernard Herrmann whose score to The Day the Earth Stood Still is the canonical example of Theremin use in sci-fi film. (more recently parodied by Danny Elfman in Mars Attacks!)
  • Anyone know the name of the artist who plays the Theremin with symphonies from that documentary film? It seemed like good stuff to follow up on.
  • Magnifique! Allow me to point out that Theremin is not an anglicized form of Termen but of the original French name Théremin (pronounced ter-man, except that the "-an" is actually a nasalized vowel with no actual -n), of which Termen (pronounced ter-MEN) is a russified form. You can read about the medieval Albigensian heritage of the name (and some of Lev's early life) here. I would also like to mention that (as demonstrated in the title of this Russian page) Termen backwards is "ne mret" (pronounced "nyi MRYOT"), producing the palindrome "Termen ne mret" -- 'Termen doesn't die.'
  • legendary composer Bernard Herrmann whose score to The Day the Earth Stood Still And let's not forget Spellbound.
  • the name of the artist who plays the Theremin with symphonies from that documentary film Do you mean Clara Rockmore?
  • The Theremin rocks! And not just because it's the only instrument I know of invented by a Russian physicist. Howard Hawks' version of The Thing (aka The Thing from Another World) would not been nearly as cool. And isn't that all that matters? Okay, maybe not, but I've gotten to play a theremin before--albeit very briefly--and it is way waaaay cool. Damn, I need to find out how to build one.
  • From my nephew's furl account, I've been enjoying these: theremins, and some musical saws as a bonus more theremins and, for fun, the bikelophone.
  • BearGuy -- Why not just ask?