I have been interested in music synthesis for as long as I can remember – indeed as a kid I used to “collect” music cassettes of music artists that pioneered the new toys that were synthesisers: Walter Carlos (Switched on Bach), Jean Michelle Jarre (Oxygene), Vangelis (Spiral), Kraftwerk (everything), Gary Numan (Pleasure Principle) … the list became endless as the music industry embraced this new instrument.

Not feeling like I had a musical bone in my body, I had never imagined making music was for me, until I came across a program called Buzz, and, encouraged by a stellar group of students (Max, Anthony and Sam) started making noises under a collective called UoD.

I had dreamed of owning a Theremin ever since I had heard one in the mid 80’s in a vintage recording of Clara Rockmore playing “The Swan” accompanied by piano. My best mate, Michael, and I talked about this obsession and many times hatched plans to get one. Originally we were going to buy a kit and solder it together, then we were going to get a classic Moog theremin, then we dithered, re-invented the conversation and took it through another 4 rinse cycles all talk, no action.

Sadly, this year (25th January 2021), Mike passed on, and I am not sure I have yet come to terms with the fact that I now live in a world where he is not. After careful consideration, I decided fuck it, let’s finally do this thing, dedicating the musical (?) exploration to him (or rather his favourite non de plume: Dr Winston O’Boogie). My only hope is that the noises I make using it do not cause him to spin in his grave.

The Theremin was invented around 1920 by Russian physicist Lev Sergeyevich Termen – commonly known later as Léon Theremin. This blog premiered around the 100th birthday of this spectacularly bizarre instrument. It is widely thought that synthesizers are a relatively modern invention – certainly easy to use ones are, but the genesis of FM synthesis and related generative electronics contain a plethora of noise-making apparatus that eventually coalesced into playable instruments. The Theremin is a fairly rare beast – nothing like it existed before, little compares to it now, but it recedes into musical obscurity only if no one uses it – I intend to try.

DISCLAIMER: After a LOT of research, I decided to purchase a Moog Etherwave Theremini. Purists will immediately bristle, arguing the Theremini is not a “real” theremin, because it is a digital re-work of an analogue instrument. Fair enough. Operationally, you play it the same, the noise it makes (after firmware updates) are (to my ears) identical, you play it without touching it and is universally considered “weird”.

I chose the Theremini because of the extra things it can do beside sound like a classic Theremin. I will not apologise for this decision, but as I learn to use it, I may regret the choice – we shall see. I am currently learning pitch control, classic theremin, no effects. It is difficult. That is the appeal. Anything worthwhile is often peppered with difficulty.

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