I didn’t sleep much on Friday night, due, probably to jet lag and excitement.
I bet that’s why I woke up with a terrible headcold.
There are not a lot of things that are more irritating than the swollen glands, slight scratchy throat, and congestion headache that come on the first day of a cold. Uggghh.
The first event Saturday morning, after breakfast, was a demonstration from several very interesting theremin engineers/inventors and an explanation of effects from from some experimental/avant-guard thereminists.
First, Jake Rothman showed us his theremins. He makes three theremins: the Pocket theremin, the Eclipse theremin, and the Elysian theremin. The pocket theremin is cute and funny, and kind-of a novelty item, and you really concentrate, you will be able to make a tune. The Eclipse is slightly larger and it’s much easier to play. The Elysian is really quite nice, with a lovely sound. It’s a “regular sized” theremin with both volume and pitch controllers, but the volume controller is in the form of a metal plate and it’s on the top of the theremin box, and it’s backwards. The closer you get to the plate, the louder the sound. Jake explained that this was because he has a background in guitar and piano and he wanted the theremin to be more hands-on. It makes a cool sound when you actually touch the metal plate. Also included in the Elysium is a ring modulation button. He said that he handn’t quite figure out what it can be used for, other than to make crazy mixed-up sounds, which it does quite effectively. Jake was enthusiastic and entertaining with all of his demonstrations, a great guy!
Next up was another Theremin maker, (Tony Bassett??), who had made some really fascinating instrument inventions. This colorful man was clearly a technical genius. Most of his instruments were really interesting looking and had a multitude of built-in effects. While they didn’t make the typical theremin sound, his instruments took the principle of the theremin and expanded them into mutli-functional and creative pieces of art. He had a theremin/controller that was clear glass and another one that performed many of the same functions, but the controls were disguised as organ stops. His midi controlled instruments were equally as mind-boggling. He made a keyboard-looking midi instrument for kids whereupon they could control the sound via a flashlight. Ridiculously cool.
I think Jon Bernhhardt was next. He demostrated how to make interesting sounds with Moogerfooger effects. My favorite was the MuRF. Jon somehow made his theremin sound like a human voice saying “yeah yeah yeah.” YEAH!
Next up was Wilco Botermans and his Croix Sonore. Wilco’s Wife Jessica gave us a history lesson about the Croix Sonore. Visually stunning, the instrument has a fascninating history. Unfortunately, included in that history is a lasting reputation for technical difficulties. Wilco’s Croix Sonore decided to comply with its own history, so it didn’t work. I believe that it does work, though. I BELIEVE IT!
Sarah Angliss (aka SpaceDogUK) had technical difficulties as well, so her demonstration was postponed until later.
Next up was a fellow (name?) who had a refurbished antique RCA theremin. He had an old fashioned speaker as well! Really cool, really hard to play, it has a low register and a range of about two very unlinear octaves. Nevertheless it was a real treat to play it.
(Photo credit goes to Stuart.)
Next, Wilco demonstrated his effects including his controller glove. I had seen his demonstration at Ethermusic 2005. It’s really fantastic. Basically, he controls Moogerfooger effects with his left hand using an expertly-wired glove.
All of these technically minded people are truly an inspiration to me. I am really partial to the raw sound of the theremin. Lately, though, I’ve been trying to create music that I can play solo but I didn’t want to have to bring backing tracks with me. It’s now clear to me that this can be done with effects. I can just lay down the background live and play along.
Stay tuned for more . . .