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Leon Theremin


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theremin (thèr´e-mîn) noun
An electronic instrument played by moving the hands near its two antennas, often used for high tremolo effects.

[After Leo Theremin (born 1896), Russian engineer and inventor.]

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Jimmy Page uses the Theremin on 1975 tour theremin wizard

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Electrical generators

An example of the way that the electromagnetic imagination exists in our culture today is electronic music. That is, of course, a huge field and I am not trying to generalize about it at all. But if you look at the topic historically, particularly once electronic music or the electrical aspects of music enter into popular culture, we find an association between internal linkelectricity and mysticism, outer space, cosmic vibrations. A lot of very bad music is produced out of these ideas and a lot of very good electronic music has nothing to do with them. I am not trying to say that they are necessary connections, but they are connections  which come up over and over again.internal linkStockhausen's ideas about how the universe works are actually quite interesting because  they come out of the things that I have already been talking about, a way of internal linkfusing the more mystical ideas about vibration and  the cosmos with aspects of internal linkelectromagnetism. You find the same thing with the role of internal linkfeedback in Sixties rock music. The paragon example of this is in The Beach Boys' song, _Good Vibrations_, which captures this very hippie metaphor---vibrations  and that whole cultural idea---and yet if you analyze the song, the instrument which is producing the "good vibrations" is the  theremin. The theremin is the first genuinely electronic instrument and, if you have ever seen anybody play a theremin, it is a very  odd instrument because you are not actually touching anything physical. The theremin basically has two rods---I am not very  good at the science of it or else I would have coughed it up--- and you sit there and it produces two fields that you play by moving  your hand. So you wave your hands like a internal linkmagician and you can pull the sounds out of the internal linkether. Of course, the ether doesn't  really exist, but it is certainly a very enchanted instrument. We go on through the Seventies and the progressive rock and a lot of  cheesy things like that and we notice that, when electronic music comes back into popular culture in strong way in the  late-Eighties and the early-Nineties, it is still accompanied by a return of ideas of the internal linkecstasy, of the experience plugged into a drug universe, of imagery of cosmic beings and internal linkaliens and entities. All sorts of elements of the imaginal are connected in with the question of electronics.

- Erik Davis - _Spiritual Telegraphs and the Technology of Communication_ lecture

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It's also important to remember historically that one of the great pioneers of media, Leon Theremin, was probably the first person to create the first genuine working television, and created the first electronic musical instrument, also created the first internal linkvirtual-reality-like device, using capacitors to make music out of music out of internal linkdancers' motions around 1912. There's a history to this that I'm proud to be a part of.

internal linkJaron Lanier in Zavtone interview

Jaron Lanier x3

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UFOs over China in 1974 boundary dissolution...

...An example: the first truly electronic instrument is a gadget invented by the Russian Leon Theremin,  which was appropriately called the theremin. Theremin created his instrument in the early twenties;   basically, it created an electromagnetic field that you could modulate with your hand. You controlled  pitch and volume by inserting your body into this field; seemingly, you plucked the music from thin air.   Theremin thought of his creation as a concert hall instrument, and Clara Rockmore, the greatest  thereminist of all time, used it for performances of Rachmaninoff and Ravel. But what do we see and feel  when we hear the theremin's eerie etheric tones, its weird and wavering voice? We know the instrument  through the soundtracks of fifties internal linkUFO movies and pop songs like the appropriately named "Good Vibrations." So though the instrument was constructed as an instrument to play "real" music, it drifted  through twentieth-century pop culture, picking up any number of strange associations—cosmic vibrations,  outer space, paranoia, drugs. Electronic space opens up a variety of curious modes of internal linksubjectivity—and not just internal linkscience-fiction clichés. Think of what happened to electronic music in the sixties and seventies, in  both internal linkpsychedelic music and art music like Stockhausen. We find an emphasis on the cosmic, on spatial disorientation, on transport, on affect, on the nonhuman. The acoustic spaces of electronic music aren't  limited to the organization of affect and narrative that define much popular music, with its highly personalized structures of love and loss.

 - Erik Davis - Acoustic Cyberspace Lecture

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film _Theremin: An Electronic internal linkOdyssey_    (vhs/ntsc)atomjacked inventory cache(1993)(TV)

Directed by Steven M. Martin

Writing credits
Steven M. Martin

Genre: Documentary

Plot Outline: A documentary about the inventor of the first electronic synthesiser instrument and his subsequent life after he was abducted by the KGB as well as a history of his instrument.

Cast (in alphabetical order)
Robert Moog  ....  Himself
Clara Rockmore ....  Herself
Todd Rundgren ....  Himself
Nicolas Slonimsky ....   Himself
Leon Theremin ....  Himself
Brian Wilson  ....   Himself

Produced by
Steven M. Martin

Original music by
Hal Willner

Cinematography by
Frank DeMarco
Chris Lombardi
Robert Stone

Film Editing by
David Greenwald

internal linkOrion Classics

MPAA: Rated PG for brief strong language.
Runtime: USA:84
Country: USA
internal linkLanguage: English
Color: Black and White / Color
Certification: USA:PG / internal linkAustralia:PG

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Thai Elephant Orchestra s-t CD on Mulatta (2001)

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internal linkUsenet: alt.music.makers.thermin

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