It’s not everyday that I’m able to roll my sci-fi geekiness and my obsession with making music into one package, but, now, thanks to my new toy, I can.
Most people don’t know what a theremin is, even though they’ve most likely heard it. Maybe in a Beach Boys tune (Good Vibrations) or in the soundtrack to a good (or bad) sci-fi movie from the 50s. Basically it’s a primitive synthesizer. Created back in the early 20th Century, it uses a pair of antennas to produce an elctromagnetic field. A tone is created when something interrupts the field. You change the tone by moving your hand, finger or whatever bodily appendage you chose, through the field. Unlike most instruments where you press a valve, a key or hit something to produce a note and then press another valve, key or hit something else to make another note, changing notes on a theremin is not quite so distinct. You “glide” from note to note, or somewhere in between.
When you read about theremins, most places will tell you they are easy to learn and difficult to master. It’s very true. It requires precise control to get the notes you want as exact as possible and there are a number of people out in the world who can do it. I am not one of them.
But, I’ve only had my theremin a day. Give me some time… and I still won’t be one of them.
That does not prevent me from having a little bit of fun with it, though.
I love classic sci-fi movies, especially from the 50s and 60s. The Day the Earth Stood Still (the original, not the abominable remake) is one of the best science fiction movies not just of that era, but ever. And part of what makes it great is the classic soundtrack by Bernard Herman. Front and center in it is, of course, the theremin. Another great example is Forbidden Planet. A great movie which brought us Robbie the Robot, served as an inspiration for Star Trek and brought us the very first soundtrack created completely on electronic instruments, including the theremin.
So, I decided to have a little fun while learning to play my very own theremin and yesterday evening I whipped up this:
My very own theme from an imaginary 50s sci-fi movie.
It was the perfect way to celebrate the ultimate in geekiness.
In the future, I’m sure the theremin will find its way into my music from time to time. It’s definitely not appropriate for everything. For now, while I’m still seriously geeing out on it, I’ll probably stick it in everything, whether it’s appropriate or not.
In the meantime, I need to figure out a way to use both the theremin and the bagpipes in a song…