Theremin Master Dorit Chrysler

Arthur Harrison
204 Theremin

For your daily theremin news…

If Boards of Canada and Aphex Twin are two of the undisputed masters of synthesis, then Dorit Chrysler is the sonic equivalent when it comes to the theremin. A composer, producer, and singer, Chrysler is the co-founder of the New York Theremin Society and founder of the first school for theremin, KidCoolThereminSchool. So as much as the theremin is a tool in Chrysler’s electronic instrument arsenal, she’s also one the most visible thereminists spreading the gospel of this mysterious sounding instrument, which is basically played by massaging thin air.

…Chrysler’s door into the world of the theremin was opened by her friend Lary 7, a New York-based musician and filmmaker. After inviting Chrysler to his house one day, Lary 7 showed her a theremin he was repairing, then demonstrated the playing technique.

Something clicked within Chrysler, who refused to rest until she mastered some notes. She saw in the theremin a lot of underappreciated sonic potential, and had to “get to the bottom of it,” as she explains. For Chrysler, this involved dedicating herself to the theremin.

“With the theremin, you surrender to a microtonal universe consisting within a one-inch movement of your hand towards the pitch antenna,” she explains. “[You] sculpt and chisel every note above the volume rod—close your eyes and perk your ears and you shall be rewarded.”

“For me a good thereminist is a player who focuses on the expressive potential of the instrument,” she adds. “No other electronic instrument can sound so devastatingly emotional, or shall we say, even hysterical at times. Run with it and find your own voice. Supposedly, Lev Termen, its inventor, said, ‘if you put your soul in it, you are worthy of playing the theremin.’”

(click here to continue reading Get Inside the Mind of a Theremin Master | The Creators Project.)

One of these days, I’ll encounter a cheap-enough theremin, or theremin-building kit, and will add it to my home orchestra. 

Bonus video: Leon Theremin playing a theremin

The Theremin Comes Into Its Own

For today’s dosage of theremin news, comes this report about the New York Theremin Society. Aunt P and I should go…

Clara Rockmore
Clara Rockmore

Since 1928, when the Russian Léon Theremin received a U.S. patent for an apparatus “embodying an electrical vibrating system,” the theremin, his electronic instrument that’s played without being touched, has become associated in film soundtracks with arrivals from outer space or hair-tugging psychotics. In rock and pop, the theremin may add a touch of the avant-garde. To the inventor Robert Moog, the instrument is where electronic music began.

With virtuosity and no small application of wit, the New York Theremin Society seeks to elevate the instrument to the status its members believe it deserves. At a show at Joe’s Pub in mid-December, five thereminists performed a range of material—including ambient and techno music, classical compositions by Alexander Scriabin and Richard Wagner, and pop by the Beatles, Enya, and Dorothy Fields and Jerome Kern. During the concert, the instrument’s bizarre nature was often secondary to its beauty and versatility.

At the Joe’s Pub concert, Ms. Chrysler and Mr. Schwimmer performed two songs together, a vampy cocktail number and a lovely version of the Beatles’ “If I Fell.” On her own, Ms. Chrysler sang and played over electronic beats, coming across as a futuristic Lotte Lenya as well as a disciplined technician and superb musician. Mr. Schwimmer punctuated his performance with glib commentary, but his moving reading of Wagner’s “Träume” to a prerecorded solo piano suggested a reassessment of the instrument’s potential. Others excelled as well: Over electronic beats by her musical partner Tigerforest, Améthyste sang and played pleasing voicelike lines on the theremin, bending notes with care. Cornelius Loy gave the evening’s most melodramatic, and ultimately heartening, performance, in which he coaxed both melodic and violent sounds out of his theremin, played over big, textured electronic tracks. Mr. Loy, who was dressed in black leather, including gloves, created with his music a sense of chaos and domination, of a somber mood exploded by rage.

By its end, the evening proved what Ms. Chrysler had claimed over lunch: “A theremin is a cool contemporary instrument. It’s not only retro and classical; it’s cool and now.”

(click here to continue reading The Theremin Comes Into Its Own | By Jim Fusilli –

There are some YouTube videos on the Joe’s Pub site for this concert, which is running until January 4th…Theremin 2

theremin-2 via