Articles / Events

Festival to Shine Light on Leon Theremin's Drum Machine - The Rhythmicon

Electro Mechanicon - A festival of electronic and mechanical musical instruments

Leon Theremin is well known as one the forefathers of electronic musical instruments, including the drum machine! His "Rhythmicon" instrument, built in collaboration with Henry Cowell in 1930, was designed to produce multiple complex rhythmic melodies. Up to 16 different rhythms can be selected, each one being an arithmetic derivation of the fundamental frequency.

The fascinating instrument caught the attention of musician Wally De Backer (who performs under the name "Gotye") and instrument builder Mike Buffington who have spent a significant amount of time researching it. The two will be featured in Electro Mechanicon a new festival for electronic and mechanical musical instruments at Tufts University.

Sunday, December 9 at 8pm in Distler Hall: Tufts Electronic Music Ensemble in works by Debussy, Santana, Grieg, Stevie Wonder, Brasstracks, and Marianne Faithful, and the world premiere of Henry Cowell’s 1931 “Concerto for Rhythmicon and Orchestra” featuring a genuine Rhythmicon, with Paul Lehrman leading the group. 

Monday, December 10 at noon in Distler Hall: A lecture featuring Wally De Backer, better known as Grammy-winning singer/composer Gotye, along with designer and instrument builder Mike Buffington, demonstrating for the first time in public their newest project, the Rhythmicon. 

Tuesday, December 11 at 8pm at ONCE Somerville: a reprise performance of the Electronic Music Ensemble's concert. 

No tickets required for the events at Tufts (Sunday and Monday). The concert at ONCE somerville is free for Tufts students, $10 for other students, and $15 for general admission.

For tickets and more information, please visit