theremin major

notes from me and my moog etherwave pro

Where have I been? May 30, 2007

Filed under: Where have I been? — jenhammaker @ 1:51 am

Well, I’ve been saving myself from the computer hell that is a crappy pc laptop and I have entered the world of the glorious MacBook. In other words, I got a new computer and so what if I’m obsessed with it!!

I’m gonna go so far as to say I love this adorable little machine in the same way I love my cat. It’s just different than all the others. It’s like it was made for me. I suffered through several other cats – I mean computers – and I finally feel as if one loves me back.

I have a hunch that it has something to do with the fact that I just turned 30.

Was I supposed to tell you all that? Who cares.

Here’s the summary of the end of the semester:

~I performed the Rach Vocalise at the chamber music recital.
~I got all A’s except for in Dictation because it’s hard and it blows my mind and in chamber music for obvious reasons.

This summer looks promising.

~I’m going to Hand’s Off 2007! (UK Theremin Symposium)
~I’m going to be playing the role of the Misfit, Stormer, in a hilarious stage version of JEM and the Holograms
~I’m going home to visit my mom as often as I can

My goal for the summer is to create a set-full of cool, hip, fresh traxx on Garageband so that I can get out there and start “hawking my [theremin]wares” on the mean streets/clubs of NYC.

So, periodically, I will post new music in the music section of this blog. See it? Yeah right there at the top right of your screen. I already have one new song up and a new recording of Vocalise. Check it out, please!


Confiscated! May 8, 2007

Filed under: Confiscated — jenhammaker @ 6:08 am

This evening, I was informed that it was against school policy to have a blog.

I’m currently validating this information.

Until then, I have temporarily removed all posts that I have written about actually attending school. (My firsts two posts are about what happened before I started school.)

I’ll continue to update you all here regarding theremin related activites outside of school . . .




Dear Lemon Lima April 24, 2007

Filed under: Shameless Self-Promotion — jenhammaker @ 9:21 pm

Hi friends – So, a year ago, I recorded for a short film called Dear Lemon Lima directed by the very awesome and talented (Stickerbook fan) Suzi Yoonessi.

It’s in the Tribeca Film Festival this year!

To be honest with you, I have no idea if what I recorded is still in the film.

It’s still important to us because one of the characters in the film, Nothing,  plays a Moog Etherwave Standard.

Here are the program notes from the Tribeca Film Festival Website:

A lonely girl with a vivid imagination struggles to plant seeds of love after her narcissistic sweetheart breaks her heart. But a chance meeting with “angel-headed dorks” Hercules and Nothing enables her to overcome her heartbreak on a serendipitous summer day. Dear Lemon Lima thrives on the notion that life is a time to celebrate our common traits and differences and inspire kindness and equality in others.

WordPress won’t let me embed a yahoo video, but you can follow


to view the trailer.


Saturday, April 28, 11:30 am, AKB-12 (AMC Kips Bay)
Sunday, April 29, 12:30 pm, AKB-13 (AMC Kips Bay)
Wednesday, May 2, 4:00 pm, CCW-02 (Clearview Chelsea West)
Friday, May 4, 4:30 pm, RG-11 (Regal Cinemas Battery Park Cinemas)
Saturday, May 5, 2:00 pm, RG-10 (Regal Cinemas Battery Park Cinemas)

to buy tickets, go here.

If my theremin-ocity is still in the film, it will be delightful and thrilling to see and hear it all in a real NYC movie theatre.  Yikes!


Habanera Sauce April 19, 2007

Filed under: Habanera Sauce — jenhammaker @ 7:57 pm


Grindhouse was awesome. Go see it. This is why.

It made me want to kick ass.

Okay, back to the theremin.

Soooooo . . . Chamber Music!

Here’s a definition from Wikipedia:

Chamber music is a form of classical music, written for a small group of instruments which traditionally could be accommodated in a palace chamber. Most broadly, it includes any “art music” that is performed by a small number of performers with one performer to a part. The word “chamber” signifies that the music can be performed in a small room, often in a private salon with an intimate atmosphere. However, it usually does not include, by definition, solo instrument performances.

I guess I didn’t know this because I’m a downtown musician. I’ve been playing chamber music my whole life . . .except that I’ve never played in a palace. I have, however, played in small rooms.

I looked this up because my current chamber setup is only piano and theremin. When I think of the term chamber music, I picture either a string quartet or a 18th century corseted crew playing harps, flutes, and harpsichords in a drawing room for a dinner party. But then, when one thinks of the term classical music, I’m sure one’s brain does not immediately produce an image of a theremin.

Again, we were given a repertoire to work on. So, thanks so much for all the suggestions (Brian), but again I have no say in the matter. Luckily, this time, I’m really excited about the pieces that we chosen for my chamber duo.

The pieces that we were assigned are the Rachmaninoff Vocalise, Vocalise en form d’ Habanera by Ravel, and a piece called Chant Grec by Manolis Kalomiris.

I’ve been working on the Rach Vocalise in my lesson, so I was able to play that right away, which was great. We worked on that for the first two coaching sessions, during which I was told to change my technique (successfully I think), and the pianist got in a heated argument with one of the coaches (!!).

Last week was our first coaching session with the main professor of the class. She hadn’t heard what we had been working on with the other coaches and I guess she hadn’t spoken to them either, because when she came in, I think she was scared to death of the sound that she thought she was going to hear.

She came in and sat down and said, “Let’s just do this. Let’s try something. Do you have a piece that you can play on the piano that she can improvise with?”

After explaining that we had been working on the Rach Vocalise for 3 weeks, she agreed to listen to that before trying to find some alternate way of producing sound.

After we played it, she scrapped her improv idea, thank goodness.

Yesterday, she coached us again and we mostly worked on the Ravel Habanera piece.

“Are you familiar with the term, Habanera, Jen?”

“Isn’t it a Spanish, kinda sultry dance?”

“Yes, that’s good.”

As we were working through the piece, we came across a particular run of notes which was basically a scale that was embellished with flourishes in the form of triplettes. I was having trouble getting all the notes, so I was to play the basic scale without the flourishes.

“But even without the flourishes, you can still make this the sexiest scale . . .”

Sultry Habanera.


PS: I added a music page to this blog. I’ve downloaded several songs that may or may not illustrate the progress that I’ve been making while in school. Feel free to comment, but like I say on the page, please don’t tell me things that I already know, namely, that I tend to go sharp and that I swell too much . . .oh, and that I miss some notes. I know. I’m working on it! None of the pieces I have downloaded are meant to be great recordings. I record myself often so that I can listen to how I really sound, as opposed to how I think I sound. It really helps. Anyway, have a listen and tell me what you think.



Technique 1 April 6, 2007

Filed under: Technique — jenhammaker @ 11:21 pm

I’m a gal who likes to figure things out for myself, or rather, without spending too much time reading the 17 page discussion on the Aerial Fingering Technique on Theremin World. I’m sure there’s as lengthy a conversation on Levnet (email list for the theremin-obsessed), but Levnet already drives me a little crazy.

When I was in college, my fellow actors and directors would sit around and talk about acting and directing at great length and in intimate detail for hours on end but I could never sit there for more than 10 minutes before my skin would begin to crawl.

I guess what I’m trying to say is I’m all about action. Doing it rather than discussing it.

I have watched the videos that came with my standard etherwave and I can watch YouTube clips for hours. I just can’t read spend the same amount of time reading about theremin technique.

In the same vein, I’m glad all of us thereminists are developing a vernacular. So for anyone who is a discussion-type, I’m gonna run down some topics on theremin technique and briefly sum up what I’ve learned so far on the topic. Please forgive me if the same things have been discussed elswhere on these crazy internets as it is most likely that I have not read these discussions.

At Ethermusic 2005, if I’m not mistaken, there was a great emphasis on the idea that everyone has their own technique. That was exciting for me, a gal who likes to learn things for myself.

In the last few months, from the time I began at [A Paradigm of Higher Learning Specializing in Classical Music Education], my technique has changed at least 5 times! I have been hesitant to post about it because of that reason, but now, with help from teachers and coaches. I think we have figured out a way of playing that produces a full, rich sound and at the same time, does not cause arm tension or fatigue. Eureka? Sure, Eureka!! (For now.)

Basic Theremin Stance: Brace yourselves. This might sound crazy. I don’t face the front of the theremin. Instead I turn stand at about a 45 degree angle so I’m looking at the volume antennae and and my pitch arm is coming at the pitch antennae pinky-first.

My volume arm is directly out in front of me and my pitch arm looks like I’m waving at you with my arm out to the side, while holding my wrist up, but with as little tension as possible.

Boy, if you understood that description perfectly, then I’m a monkey’s uncle.

Still confused??!! What is wrong with you!? Just kidding.

I’ll try to draw a picture later.

Aerial Fingering Technique: When I first started playing, I didn’t try too hard to master this techinique. After I started to become a better player, I started experimenting with this idea more and more until I kind-of created my own version of it. I was hitting the notes precisely, but there was so much tension in my hand and in my wrist that my vibrato suffered. I could only maintain vibrato for a few seconds. Two weeks ago, after mentioning it to me before (“Do you have to do all that crap with your fingers???!!!”), one of my chamber music coaches encouraged me to scrap it altogether. Eureka. Not only is my vibrato free and full, my phrases are legato instead of strained and choppy. It only took me a week or so to get my exact pitches back.

Vibrato: Keeping my arm close to my body to the elbow, I shake my arm from the elbow so that my wrist moves from side to side, but with no wrist tension. The wrist just kinda wobbles there on top. Because of my stance, this side to side motion is should give the the sound a full, rich vibrato – going from the note I’m on to a half step below and back. That’s the goal. String players practice this 1/2 step vibrato thing. Sure, sometimes the wobble includes a less than precise interval, but what can you do.

I will write more as I learn more. Hope this helps at least one person!

See you later, thereminators! Gotta go see Grindhouse.


There-Drama. March 26, 2007

Filed under: There-Drama — jenhammaker @ 1:11 pm

Before I go into it, I would like to say that the recital went really well. For ME. I played the pieces much better than I had played them before. My friends M. and B. came and we were blown away. . .by the fact that some of the groups were terrible. Others were excellent. The not-so great groups seemed to have one person in them with little to no experience and that one player was the cog in their wheel.

I DON’T think I was that cog!! I’m gonna be honest here, and say what’s on my mind. The Flautist was snobby and not “all that,” and kept blaming ME for messing up when it was HE who was doin’ the messin’!!!

You know the type of dude I’m talking about. The kind of dude who affects an almost-British accent and corrects me whenever I said, “Saint-Saens.”

“You mean ‘Saaaauugggh Saaauughh?’ ”

No. Saint-Saens. I took French for 5 years.

And then he goes and can’t hit a lot of the notes!

So we filled out a midterm questionairre.

I filled it out honestly.

I was removed from my group.

So I was right.

Downtown Music.



Midterm Chamber Music Recital March 24, 2007

Filed under: Shameless Self-Promotion — jenhammaker @ 3:40 pm

My eccentric professor wrote us all an email encouraging us to “bring [our] fan clubs,” so here are the swanky deets for my midterm Chamber Music Recital:*

Sunday March 25th
Concert Hall
2nd Floor
[A Paradigm of Higher Learning Specializing in Classical Music Education].

“Une Flute Invisible”
By Camille Saint-Saens

“La Flute Enchantee”
from Shéhérazade, Three Poems for Voice and Orchestra on Poems by Tristan Klingsor
by Maurice Ravel

*please nobody from school find this blog please nobody from school find this blog please for the love of GOD nobody from school find this blog . . .