Sci-fi theme song or the communication with intergalactic worlds? Not the slightest problem with the theremin. When the unusual instrument was introduced, the press wrote with fascination, “that you can simply pull music out of thin air“. At first glance, the device looks almost meaningless: it is a small box with two antennas protruding from the top. Can sounds really come out of this thing? You bet! The theremin has disappeared several times in history from the public eye, maybe because many people doubted its capabilities. Some even claim that the instrument had a niche existence. Fortunately, this is not exactly true… 

1. The Theremin – Pioneer of electronic musical instruments

A modern Theremin made by Moog

The theremin is considered to be the first electronic musical instrument ever made, a legendary machine. It is also the only instrument in the world that can be played without needing to be touched! The magnetic field is changed by the varying distances between the two hands. One hand is responsible for the pitch, the other for the volume. Its allure increases considerably when you consider when the first version was released: 1920! Next year this mystical device will celebrate its 100th birthday. 

2. Crossing borders between music & technology

According to experts, the inventor and manufacturer Lev Sergeyevich Termen was kidnapped by the Soviet secret service NKVD in 1938 and taken back to the Soviet Union. After a stay in the infamous Magadan labour camp, he was transferred to a military research facility. There he invented many things. Metal and mine detectors also work according to the Theremin principle.

Lev Sergeyevich Termen

Lev Sergeyevich Termen

3. The sound of the theremin in horror, sci-fi & thriller films

Again and again the mystical sounds of the Theremin were used in thrillers and sci-fi movies. Alfred Hitchcock in 1945 in “Spellbound” and Billy Wilder in the same year in “The Lost Weekend” used the spacey instrument for their cinematic dramas. The composer of the soundtrack was a certain Miklós Rózsa. Thus, the theremin had become the star of high-level cinematography. 

Miklós Rózsa

Miklós Rózsa

4. Almost predestined for science fiction

And of course the Theremin has a cult status among fans of intergalactic worlds. It is particularly suitable for reproducing the theme song from Star Trek, as can be seen and heard below:

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5. Is the theremin a classic also in rock and pop?

In pop music, the theremin became known through the Beach Boys when, in 1968, they used the special effect in the song “Good Vibrations”. Other well-known artists who use the theremin in some songs include Sting, Tom Waits and Jean-Michel Jarre. Many wondered where the sounds came from. Now you know.

The Beach Boys - Good Vibrations

6. When one legend reaches out to the other

From 1953 onwards Robert Moog dedicated himself to the theremin and founded his very first company. The goal was to assemble and sell kits for Theremin devices. The circuit technology was to be the foundation stone for the first voltage-controlled synthesizers. The legendary MiniMoog saw the light of day shortly afterwards. The Theremin is, so to speak, the ancestor of the Moog synth.

Distant Voices Theremin

7. Large fan base in Germany, Europe & worldwide

For many years there have been events where the theremin has been the focus, for example the “Hands Off” festival in England and the “Electromagnetica” festival in Chile. Even if the instrument is less known than the usual candidates, it still has a large following. For example, the Theremin Academy regularly organises courses and seminars in Colmar (France) and Berlin. Lydia Kavani, the grandniece of Lev Thermen, teaches in Oxford, for example.

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8. Pure fascination & super talent

Hardly anyone mastered the theremin as well as artist Barbara Buchholz. She got to know Lydia Kavina and was fascinated by the magic of this extraordinary instrument. In 2009 Barbara appeared on RTL’s show “Das Supertalent” and reached the semi-finals. After her performance, the people in the hall were so spellbound that the applause started only after a significant delay. Three years later the great artist unfortunately died of cancer.

Barbara Buchholz

9. Reduced to the essentials

The Moog Etherwave Theremin has been available in various versions for years. For example, with an attractive body in ash, cherry or black. Moog’s Theremin Plus has been available since 2009. By the way, all variants have the following information in common: “Number of keys: 0 – Touch dynamics: No” Many people wouldn’t even know where to start 😉

PS: Inventor Lev Sergeyevich Termen and the electric pioneer Bob Moog are no longer among us. But the theremin was a pioneer of the synthesizerskeyboardsworkstations and drum machines that we all know today. The theremin’s legacy continues, go ahead, try one out and see if you like it!

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Joe has been singing since he can remember and started playing guitar when he was 10. He's been using it as a songwriting tool ever since. He is passionate about melody and harmony and admires musicians who create these in unique ways. Check out his alternative / indie projects Best of Feelings and Zef Raček.

One comment

    thanks for the facts this was for a school project so thanks.

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