The Theremin is 100 Years Old this Year! (Worlds first electronic instrument)

TLS Guy

TLS Guy

Seriously, I have no life.


No Carolina Eyck is not conducting, she is playing the Theremin in Kalevi Aho's concerto for Theremin (8 Seasons), with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra at the BBC Proms. You can listen to it now. That will be a 96kbs stream in the US. If you have a VPN, you can get the UK stream at 320kbs.

The Theremin is an instrument played entirely with your hands in midair. It is very difficult to play, as there is no keyboard or fret, so you have to have perfect pitch. It produces an other worldly sound, but can also imitate the human voice in an uncanny way. It is sometimes called the perfect instrument

I have long been an admirer of Kalevi Aho's compositions and this one does not disappoint. This instrument can produce some extraordinary sounds. There is also some very deep bass, which will give your subs a work out.

The Proms have had some really good concert this year. The first full season for three years, because of Covid. There are 72 concerts from July 15, until September 5. All are on BBC sounds, and three a week are also televised. You can't see the TV streams in the US without a VPN link.
 
S

shadyJ

Speaker of the House
Staff member
I have always enjoyed the sound. It's too bad it got 'typecast' for being a spooky-sounding instrument when it can sound quite lovely. If you have not seen it yet, you should check out "Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey," a great documentary made about the theremin some years ago. I see that it is streaming on Amazon Prime.
 
Verdinut

Verdinut

Audioholic Ninja
So, when that instrument was released in 1922, we can say that there was no loudspeaker then which could reproduce the very deep bass you are referring to. Real subwoofers are rather recent products.
 
TLS Guy

TLS Guy

Seriously, I have no life.
So, when that instrument was released in 1922, we can say that there was no loudspeaker then which could reproduce the very deep bass you are referring to. Real subwoofers are rather recent products.
Most speakers then were moving iron, which sounded like amplified telephones. The diaphragm as generally at the throat of a horn. However the moving coil speaker was invented in 1898, but not manufactured until 1905. It was not until Kellog's improvements of 1925 that they totally supplanted moving iron designs.

It was not until Voight designed his corner horn, that a moving coil design had anything approaching high fidelity. Most regard 1935 as the start of the Hi-Fi era, but it did not blossom until around 1948 after WW II. So you are correct the deep bass would not have been heard until recent years. The frequency spectrum of the Theremin by the way is enormous, and rivals the pipe organ.
 
slipperybidness

slipperybidness

Audioholic Warlord
I've see Man or Astroman pull out the Therimin for a live set a couple times. These guys NEVER disappoint (sci-fi meets surf rock)

 
Eppie

Eppie

Audioholic Samurai
I've seen it played several times but never as an accompaniment to orchestra. Thanks for the link.
 
highfigh

highfigh

Audioholic Slumlord


No Carolina Eyck is not conducting, she is playing the Theremin in Kalevi Aho's concerto for Theremin (8 Seasons), with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra at the BBC Proms. You can listen to it now. That will be a 96kbs stream in the US. If you have a VPN, you can get the UK stream at 320kbs.

The Theremin is an instrument played entirely with your hands in midair. It is very difficult to play, as there is no keyboard or fret, so you have to have perfect pitch. It produces an other worldly sound, but can also imitate the human voice in an uncanny way. It is sometimes called the perfect instrument

I have long been an admirer of Kalevi Aho's compositions and this one does not disappoint. This instrument can produce some extraordinary sounds. There is also some very deep bass, which will give your subs a work out.

The Proms have had some really good concert this year. The first full season for three years, because of Covid. There are 72 concerts from July 15, until September 5. All are on BBC sounds, and three a week are also televised. You can't see the TV streams in the US without a VPN link.
That is definitely not an instrument that should be played by or for people with perfect pitch- it's not perfect pitch that's needed, it's incredibly accurate motor skills and tolerance for small errors in pitch.

I don't know exactly when it was originally produced, but at least one company (may have been Maestro) made an electronic instrument that had a narrow surface that was somewhat conductive- the user would slide a finger along the strip, to start making the sound and the pitch would change with the position of their finger.

It's good to see that someone (other than Brian Wilson) saw the value in this instrument for real music, rather than as a sound effect for horror movies, although that was pretty effective.
 
highfigh

highfigh

Audioholic Slumlord
Most speakers then were moving iron, which sounded like amplified telephones. The diaphragm as generally at the throat of a horn. However the moving coil speaker was invented in 1898, but not manufactured until 1905. It was not until Kellog's improvements of 1925 that they totally supplanted moving iron designs.

It was not until Voight designed his corner horn, that a moving coil design had anything approaching high fidelity. Most regard 1935 as the start of the Hi-Fi era, but it did not blossom until around 1948 after WW II. So you are correct the deep bass would not have been heard until recent years. The frequency spectrum of the Theremin by the way is enormous, and rivals the pipe organ.
And this was before speakers had a permanent magnet, using a field coil for that function. I refurbished an old Oahu lap steel guitar amp that has a Rola field coil speaker and it was very basic, but it worked very well. Since I couldn't find much info about that particular model, I wanted to have a way to determine whether I would need to change anything in the event that one (or more) of the tubes had failed and a replacement couldn't be found, so I created a schematic- I though it was interesting that the field coil was also used as the choke in the power supply. As far as I could determine, it was made some time around 1937, which is when the 6C8G (provided gain) and 6L6G output tube became available, with the 80 and 6Q7G being available since 1936. I find old audio equipment fascinating.
 
BoredSysAdmin

BoredSysAdmin

Audioholic Overlord
Probably no one did more for Theremin's publicity than Jarre:

 
BoredSysAdmin

BoredSysAdmin

Audioholic Overlord
Did he sell more records than the Beach Boys' 'Good Vibrations'?
tis only one song, and albums sales, while BB are ahead with 100m sold, Jarre not far behind with 80mil sold
 
j_garcia

j_garcia

Audioholic Jedi
Zep had one and they used it live.


Jimmy still has it in his collection, they showed him playing it a bit in the main feature of It Might Get Loud, but there is a deleted scene too.

 
ryanosaur

ryanosaur

Audioholic Overlord
I was reminded of this from 2020:

Whomever wrote the notes credit the development to 1920... But at 100 or 102 years... who's counting? :p

Also, Gaudi did a follow up Single of Lee Scratch Perry's Bird In Hand:

And, released back in mid May... A tribute to The Smiths:
 
TLS Guy

TLS Guy

Seriously, I have no life.
And this was before speakers had a permanent magnet, using a field coil for that function. I refurbished an old Oahu lap steel guitar amp that has a Rola field coil speaker and it was very basic, but it worked very well. Since I couldn't find much info about that particular model, I wanted to have a way to determine whether I would need to change anything in the event that one (or more) of the tubes had failed and a replacement couldn't be found, so I created a schematic- I though it was interesting that the field coil was also used as the choke in the power supply. As far as I could determine, it was made some time around 1937, which is when the 6C8G (provided gain) and 6L6G output tube became available, with the 80 and 6Q7G being available since 1936. I find old audio equipment fascinating.
Electromagnet speakers were still in vogue long after fairly decent permanent magnets were available. This was cost saving. The electro magnetic coils did double duty as the smoothing choke in the power supply as well as providing magnetic flux.
 

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