A Theremin is not a headache cure

May 18, 2009 Off By Chris Hinton
Elio & Theremin #2

photo credit: Pelódia

The other night I watched Bill Bailey’s Remarkable Guide to the Orchestra and while there was loads there to captivate me one thing stood out… when Bill played the Theremin.
It might sound like a medicine, but the Theremin is one of the earliest electronic instruments, invented by Leon Theremin and patented by him in 1928. The Theremin consists of two antennae, one looped and one sticking straight up like an aerial and is played by simply waving your hands around near it! The looped antenna controls the volume (the closer your hand is to the loop the quieter the sound gets), and the straight antenna controls pitch (move your hand closer to raise the pitch).
Theremin were a staple of science-fiction “wobbly” sound effects, and played to great effect by Jean Michel Jarre. Amazingly, they almost have a vocal quality to them, as if singing their part rather than simply playing it.
These things seem like they’d be a nightmare to learn to play, but they really are amazing. Enjoy this TED video and marvel at this fantastic musical instrument.