Theremin at The Marsh and on the March

Posted: 5/30/2007 8:39:59 AM

From: Santa Rosa, California USA

Joined: 7/25/2005
Posted: 6/4/2007 11:13:22 AM

From: New York, NY

Joined: 2/13/2005

Great hearing from you Eliot,
and seeing word... or non-word as the case may be... is getting out there.

all the best!

From: A Nice Gesture
« Gesture as a Metaphor for Musical Expression
Musical Gesturing with a Theremin

Here is a man called Eliot Fintushel, who neatly exemplifies how people come to talk about the expression of feelings in music. Furthermore, because he is using ‘gestures’ to operate his Theremin he even talks about his feelings being present in his movement and therefore (magically) transferred to the music of the Theremin. So, if you make a ‘nervous’ movement, you get a ‘nervous’ sound.
Posted: 6/4/2007 1:22:43 PM

From: Santa Rosa, California USA

Joined: 7/25/2005

Thanks for taking a look, you guys.

If you're interested this is a response I posted to the interesting semioticist who critiqued my association of emotions with gesture and sound:


It’s me, Eliot, the theremin guy. I enjoyed reading your comment–very thoughtful and thought-provoking. There are some things in it that I don’t understand very well, though. Is your point that music in itself (sound waves with variations over time in amplitude, frequency, varying distributions of overtones, and so on–something like that) has no inherent emotional content, so that any feeling the hearer gets is adventitious, tacked on, so to speak, some socially conditioned phenomenon?

If so, I think that you’re mistaken. See, for example, the experiments done by Manfred Clynes. (Not a quack or phony at all, his work has been the subject of meetings of the Academy for the Advancement of Science and his papers have been presented at straight-ahead conferences on neuro-physiology and in peer-reviewed journals, and so on…) In one set of studies, he started with a group of university students in Berkeley, I think it was, and asked them to press their thumb against a pad in response to the utterance of emotion words like “anger,” “love” and so on. He used a computer to graph the shapes of the variations in pressure over time, then took the resultant curves and, in a very straightforward and simple way, mapped them onto sound patterns–duration goes to duration, intensity of pressure to frequency, I think, or maybe it was amplitude, but you see what I mean. Nothing very creative or iffy.

(By the way, there is a significant result already at this point, well before the sockdolager, because there was a very large consistency in people’s pressure-pattern responses to emotion words, but, as the kitchen appliance salesmen say, there’s more . . . )

THEN he played those sound patterns (”melodies,” if you like) for people in Mexico, in Bali, in the Aboriginal interior of Australia, as well as for people in European urban areas, and asked them to identify, if they could, the emotions that gave rise to them.

The results could well have been random, and they should have been random if (what I take to be) your position is true. But the results were, in actual fact, quite significant and definite. People all over the world reliably and consistently correlated specific sound shapes with specific feelings (or feeling WORDS, to be more precise, I guess.) And they were, in fact, the very same words that had given rise to the pressure forms that resulted in the sound shapes.

The association of musical forms and emotions seems to be neurologically based. There’s no mysticism or fantasy or romanticism or wishful thinking here–there’s pretty good experimental evidence!

Best wishes,


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