The Theremin Instrument in the 21 Century
(reprint from www.theremin.eu)
As you propably know, the theremin was invented by a guy called Lev Sergeyevich Termen,
of French and German ancestry. He patented his invention in the United
States of America in 1928 and some time during his colourful life, he changed his name to Léon Theremin.
I guess, he didn't want his invention to be called "Termen". Some people also "re-named"
Theremins by mistake to: theramin, theramine, therimin, theremine or thermin. Other people keep
going on about "what is a real Theremin" and "this is not a real Theremin because it has only
one antenna" and so forth. We like to distance us from this Freud-ian style of behaviour (also
known as OCD) and let the rest of the world decide.
But I digress, let us continue ...
At the time, his invention was on the cutting edge of technology and the theremin was one of
the few electronic musical instruments available to what I would call "the avangarde" of the
music scene then. [Avangarde: refering to people or works that are experimental or
innovative ….] Something never seen before, never heard before, like from another world.
Today, amazingly, this "once new" electronic musical instrument has found revived interrest in our new millenium, but sadly
we have to ask: Has the theremin lost it's spirit and has it become an ancient instrument,
glorified by the ever existing conservative movement in this world, forever trying to stifle
innovation ? Does it look and perform like a modern musical instrument, reaching
to the cutting edge of technology as it has, when it was first introduced to the world ?
Recent attempts by a well known theremin manufacturer, to midi-fy the theremin failed.
I guess, largely because of poor implementation and also because this theremin instrument still had
one foot in the past (or shall I say 4 feet in the past ? the wooden case looked like it
was made 100 years ago) - Lack of sales, high price and possibly other factors resulted in
the product being discontinued.
Other theremins still have the ongoing struggle of poor volume
control, linearity issues, drift issues, poor pitch resolution, lack of tonal richness
and so forth. As of today, no one has taken up the challenge and presented the
theremin of the 21 century to the world …
What would a modern theremin look like ?
What are you looking for in a theremin. Are you happy with the traditional style of
theremin or are you looking for something more ?
What are we looking for in a modern theremin instrument ?
Let's see ...
- The theremin needs to be able to tune itself, for sure.
- Eliminate drift or compensate for it. When you come back to it, it should be ready to rock.
- Must have full adjustment of the pitch and volume playing range (distance).
- Full adjustment over starting pitch and pitch range.
- Linear playing range for pitch.
- Logarithmic playing range for volume and an "inverse volume" option.
- Interresting selection of sounds and a decent tonal control.
- Possibly have a stereo output signal ? are we asking too much now ?
- Must be full of surprises and have things to be creative with.
- Have a decent midi implementation to control midi gear / computer sound modules,
- including pitch-bend, controller-messages, note trigger and more.
- Must have a number of customizable pre-sets, easy to access during a performance.
- User friendly interface (no LCD menue/sub-menue/...)
- Remember all settings, so you don't have to set it up again and again.
- May or may not have a volume antenna, Pitch only is OK for some applications.
- Must be well build and good looking, possibly small enough to fit on desk.
- And of course, it must be highly customizable.
And where can we find this mystical midi theremin of the 21 century ?
As of today, no one has taken up the challenge and presented the
theremin of the 21 century to the world …
… except one guy far away in australia: Horst. He has a vision to bring back the
"lost" spirit of the theremin to this world.
His weapon: a vast amount of knowledge of "control systems methodology", DSP technology,
advanced electronics and cutting edge design techniques, combined with a livelong passion
for electronic music and sound. Let's have a look at what he has to offer:
The Wave Theremin Instrument:
Video of the Wave Theremin in Pitch-Bend mode used with external keyboard.