History of the Theremin – From Tesla to Moog
The theremin is a unique electronic musical instrument in that it is the only instrument in the world that is played without touching. It produces hauntingly ethereal and eerie sounds vaguely similar to a waterphone, but unlike a waterphone it can also be played tonally, and can be made to sound like a stringed instrument similar to a violin. It has been featured in many sci-fi and horror movie soundtracks.
It was invented in 1921 by Russian Professor Leon Theremin, was later patented in 1928 (US1661058), and was obviously named after himself. The development of the theremin came out of Leon’s experimentation with the Tesla coil where he noticed that the coil would hum at different pitches depending upon his proximity.
During the 1920s Leon toured Europe demonstrating his instrument to packed houses, and eventually landed in the United States in 1928. He then met Clara Rockmore, who became the theremin’s first virtuoso and tried to elevate the theremin’s status to that of a serious classical musical instrument. She successfully toured the United States performing classical repertoire in concert halls.
Theremin granted commercial production rights to RCA who marketed it under the name RCA Thereminvox. Possibly because it was introduced immediately after the stock market crash of 1929, it was never a commercial success and seemed to practically disappear for the next fifty years.
A reinterest in the instrument started after the Second World War that was probably due in part to the theremin being featured in the 50s movie soundtracks of “The Day The Earth Stood Still”, “The Bride of Frankenstein”, and “Forbidden Planet.” In the 1950s Robert Moog began building theremins and later started selling theremin kits to hobbyists. He attributed the later development of the Moog synthesizer to what he had learned in working with the theremin.
Jimmy Page Plays The Theremin
Theremin Lesson One – Robert Grillo
Carolina Eyck – Theremin plays Sting
NESSUN DORMA on Theremin by Thomas Grillo