Way back in about 1919, a somewhat strange Russian by the name of Lev Termin invented what I am sure had to have been the first purely electronic musical instrument when he created an instrument he called the Termin.
He moved quite shortly after this to the USA, where he changed his name to Leon Theremin for some reason, and his invention was thereafter always known as the Theremin.
What is a Theremin?
Well I have found a good and detailed discussion online all about the Theremin, and it describes it at some length. So here I shall simply give you the brief description, and if you are seriously interested in this instrument, you will find a link to that website at the end of this post.
It consists of a box-like body with two antennas: one is a straight vertical rod which controls the pitch (usually on the right for right-handed players), the other is a horizontal loop (usually on the left) shaped somewhat like a cane handle which controls the volume. The pitch and volume of the note are controlled by the distance of the hands from the antennas which generate an electromagnetic field.
So, now you know the essential essence of the Theremin, next thing is, what does it actually sound like? To answer this question I have found an old bit of film in which Theremin himself, in scratchy Russian, describes and demonstrates his instrument.
For those of you who do not speak Russian, here is an English speaker demonstrating it for you…..
OK, so now we know what it sounds like, and more or less how it works and how to play it as well, so what does it sound like when used as an instrument to play music with? Well obviously it sounds more than a little ethereal, and spacey as well – but it does have a sort of haunting quality I find. Continue reading “Theremin – The First Electronic Instrument”