New Forum: Composing for theremin

Posted: 8/11/2005 11:57:20 PM

From: Hillsborough, NC (USA)

Joined: 2/13/2005

Welcome to the theremin composition forum. This forum is intended for discussions about writing music for the theremin and the particular challenges & freedoms it brings to the table.

Posted: 8/12/2005 9:58:42 PM

From: Winston-Salem, NC

Joined: 6/30/2005

I was very interested in the different methods in recording theremin notation that Lydia showed us at EtherMusic.

However, I don't agree with her that a great variety in notation is a good thing. Some form of standardization is inevitable and will aid in getting sheet music out there that any thereminist can use.

Notation for the theremin is similar to modern dance notation - it's most effective with instruction. I want to see what form Herb decides to use...
Posted: 8/13/2005 1:52:52 AM

From: New Hyde Park, NY

Joined: 8/7/2005

Composing for the Theremin is, or should I say was, a complete mystery to me. I do not know how to read music, much less write it, but I can replicate a song in my head and voice. I feel I can keep an excellent beat too. I'm still in the process of building my Etherwave kit. In a word, I’m a “newbie” and to me, one of the most dramatic and exciting parts of the whole festival was Wilco Botermans and his demonstration.
There was a movement where he was performing with two Theremins. He was definitely making love to his Theremins; a classical musical ménage à trois. The actual movements he was making appeared to be more of an impromptu exploration within a certain loosely pre-determined structure. Now this structure was apparently brought about by his self-described many months of work in creating the settings of his Moogerfooger and other equipment to accomplish his feedback. So he knew how to set this up to get the feedback from the equipment and here-in lays his composition. Yet here he was quasi-freeforming within the structure of his programmed mechanical composition. And I say quasi-freeforming because he was constrained to not go too far with his experimentation. He had to be very careful not overload the equipment or go beyond the equipment limits, I mean he had his parameters both in distance and speed of movement yet was able to gleefully play with both Theremins to his hearts content. Watching him play the pitch and volume antennas using his chest, face, cheek, nose and ultimately his tongue was very sensual. The pitch and volume functions often times switched roles, while the sounds he had produced and/or found appeared to be coming not from the ether but from somewhere way beyond the ether … from the other side of the 21st Century. So now I understand a little bit more about composing for the Theremin and with regard to one less-traveled path taken, it has a whole lot to do with setup composition.
Jason, I recall seeing you record that session. I hope it recorded and you can stream it somewhere. I would love to get to see and hear that again and I’m sure it would mesmerize anyone else who experiences it.
Wilco said I could drop him an e-mail and remind him to send me the equipment list he used. If anyone else has that list, maybe you can post your impressions of the list in the meantime.

Posted: 8/13/2005 12:26:46 PM

From: Greenville, NC

Joined: 6/21/2005

it was really interesting seeing how different people write for the theremin.
for instance, when i do 'noise' compositions i focus more on a loose structure. like i'll have notes saying what style to play in and what voice to use but the actual notes i play and expression of them is different every time (ie, 'low dist. rhythmic feedback, layer clean staccato melody').
when i do more melodic pieces i write loose notations, like 'follow melody, high octave' or 'hold high note' etc etc
i think pretty much every thereminist writes differently from what i've seen. a standard notation would be helpful though, for say, if we're in a scenario where we have to play a piece we haven't before without practice. it'd be nice to have the confidence to know you're at least reading it correctly...
Posted: 8/19/2005 8:57:13 PM

Joined: 7/31/2005

Im sure with Theremin pieces, standard notation would work provided that you had an absolute mastery of the area surronding the antenna. If you knew that you had a C and you knew exactly where it was then you could do it. It shoudn't be any different than standard notation.
Posted: 8/19/2005 10:52:18 PM

From: Winston-Salem, NC

Joined: 6/30/2005

However, the theremin is capable of more than just pure melody. The extra notation that we were talking about are ways of representing attack and volume and vibrato, primarily for more modern pieces.

I wish I had samples that I could post here.
Posted: 8/20/2005 2:16:58 AM

From: new haven ct.

Joined: 7/8/2005

they're are ways to get that across using traditional notation. It's when you start writing music with a lot of effects that control the sound is when you really need to come up with a different system.
Posted: 8/20/2005 12:33:11 PM

From: new haven ct.

Joined: 7/8/2005

besides I think it's more important in the long run, and if you want to be considered legit, well by us old fogies anyway, is that you learn to read and understand tradition western notation first before reinventing it,
Posted: 8/22/2005 8:53:03 PM

Joined: 7/31/2005

I don't really think that the notation would be any different than any other instrument capable of producing volume or vibrato. A c is a c is a c.

Now if you want to just get out there, you woudl have notation for special effects like delay or what have you, but I don't think that there should be any deviation from the standard western notation with the exception of the evolution of notation itself.

THe old videos of Leon Theremin showed him reading music on them so I don't see why Lydia Kavina would have any say so as to how a specific note should be notated lolol.
Posted: 8/31/2005 6:40:05 PM

From: Louisville, KY

Joined: 8/28/2005

The particular challenge in composing for the theremin is getting sheet music anywhere near the damn thing without throwing the pitch off. I wish Moog had done more with the Vanguard design, as the wedge shape is very practicle in this regard.

Walking bass lines sound really good on the theremin. But, as with any melody, it's best to see-saw any notes that ascend directly up or down the scale, so you can voice them better.

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