The THEREMIN (Musical instrument) - what is it?

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The THEREMIN (Musical instrument) - what is it?

Postby Hugh-AR » 31 Dec 2018 12:17

Have come across this whilst searching for something else. The THEREMIN. Never seen this played before!

Wikipedia: The theremin is an electronic musical instrument controlled without physical contact by the thereminist. It is named after the Westernized name of its Soviet inventor, Léon Theremin, who patented the device in 1928.

The theremin - A short introduction to a unique instrument



And below is the instrument being played in a 'live' context.

Over The Rainbow. This song was written by Harold Arlen for the 1939 MGM classic THE WIZARD OF OZ. It is widely believed to be the most loved and enduring popular song of the 20th century. It is played here on the 1929 RCA theremin that once belonged to the late Hollywood thereminist, Dr. Samuel Hoffman.



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Re: The THEREMIN (Musical instrument) - what is it?

Postby dragon » 31 Dec 2018 12:38

Weird and wonderful. .. Fred
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Re: The THEREMIN (Musical instrument) - what is it?

Postby Rev Tony Newnham » 01 Jan 2019 08:06

Hi

A fascinating instrument indeed. My interest in historic electronic musical instruments means that I came across the Theremin many years ago. Theremins are still being made, notably by Moog. Their latest version, the Theremini, uses clever processing to solve the real Theremin's biggest problem - that of pitching notes. I'm told that's pretty difficult. I'd like one (maybe I'll treat myself for my forthcoming birthday). Circuits for DIY versions are available on the net.

Among other things, the Theremin is used in the original theme music for Midsomer Murders - but not, as sometimes stated, in the Beach Boys "Good Vibrations" (that's a different type of instrument, but with a similar sound).

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Re: The THEREMIN (Musical instrument) - what is it?

Postby Hugh-AR » 01 Jan 2019 11:08

Tony,

Now that is something I did not know. I have watched many of those Midsomer Murders mysteries and listened to that haunting theme without really thinking about how it was done.

From under the YouTube video:
Celia Sheen plays the theme tune from ITV's drama series "Midsomer Murders" on the Theremin. She has done so, along with incidental music, on the soundtrack of every episode for fourteen years. This fascinating instrument was the world's very first electronic instrument, invented in 1920 by Russian scientist Lev Theremin. Of course, nobody ever sees Celia's performances on the recordings, but what makes it interesting is that the Theremin is played without being touched!



You mention the Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations". Have always loved that number. You say this has an electronic instrument with a similar sound. Do you know what that instrument is?

Hugh
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Re: The THEREMIN (Musical instrument) - what is it?

Postby Rev Tony Newnham » 02 Jan 2019 08:25

Hi Hugh

A quick web search reveals the instrument in question to be called an "Electro-theremin" - see:

Do a right-click on these to open them up in a New Tab
https://www.npr.org/sections/allsongs/2013/02/07/171385175/no-it-wasn-t-a-theremin-on-good-vibrations-remembering-paul-tanner
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_Vibrations
http://www.electrotheremin.com/etfaq.htm

Among a load of other info and videos on the web.

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Re: The THEREMIN (Musical instrument) - what is it?

Postby Hugh-AR » 02 Jan 2019 10:40

Tony,

Thanks for those. The first one has had it's video of the Beach Boys removed, so here is the track we are talking about:



You can hear the weird 'vibrating whistle' sound quite clearly in the background. From your article:
It's one of the most recognizable sounds in pop music. It also turns out to be one of the most misunderstood. That high-pitched sound in The Beach Boys' 1966 masterpiece "Good Vibrations" is always assumed to be a theremin. But it's not. And this week, Paul Tanner — the man who invented the instrument that actually made that unforgettable sound — has died.

First, some background: The theremin is an instrument invented by Leon Theremin in 1928. It has two metal antennae, and you play it not by touching it, but by moving your hands in the air between the antennae to control the pitch and volume of the sound. It takes a lot of practice to play the theremin, so in the 1950s, trombonist Paul Tanner and an amateur inventor named Bob Whitsell made an instrument that made sounds similar to Leon Theremin's creation, but made it a lot simpler for non-experts to hit specific notes and control the volume.

This is what his 'instrument' looked like:

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