Believe It or Not!
In the 1920′s Leon Theremin invented one of the first electronic musical devices – The Theremin, which is played without any physical contact between the musician and the instrument! (Click on above image to see Theremin play …the Theremin) To play this touchless instrument, the musician stands in front of the instrument and moves his or her hands in the proximity of two metal antennas. The distance from one antenna determines frequency (pitch), and the distance from the other controls amplitude (volume). Most frequently, the right hand controls the pitch and the left controls the volume, although some performers reverse this arrangement.
Pitch control is challenging because, like a violin or trombone, a theremin can generate tones of any pitch throughout its entire range, including those that lie between the conventional notes. And, unlike most other instruments, the theremin has no physical feedback (other than sound), like string tension or the tactile fingerboard for strings, or air column resistance in wind instruments. The player has to rely solely on what is heard, and can only correct a pitch when its volume is not at zero.
Modern Day Uses
- Film Soundtracks – used in movies such as: The Ten Commandments, Ed Wood, The Machinist, Hellboy
- Concert Music – composers who have written for the instrument: Percy Grainger, Christian Wolff, Joseph Schillinger
- Popular Music – “Good Vibrations” by The Beach Boys, “Whole Lotta Love” by Jimmy Page of Led Zippelin
- Television – White Castle American hamburger restaurant chain TV commercial ad, The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon Cooper practices on the theremin.