French Ondes Martenot Player's Technique

Posted: 9/26/2006 4:20:53 AM

From: UK

Joined: 5/16/2006

Whilst surfing Google videos (not in 'work' time, of course!!):

As you can see, he's come up with a very interesting, and very secure technique (secure as in, with this he is almost guaranteed to get the note, but at the expense of range).

The thing that strikes me is his left hand (volume). Given that he's an Ondes Martenot player, he is obviously used to having to depress a button to generate a tone - and as such this is reflected in his playing (which isn't bad at all) by placing his hand beneath the volume antenna, and using a downward action to play.

I just found this interesting, and thought you all might too :-D

Have fun,

Posted: 9/26/2006 11:40:58 AM
Charlie D

From: England

Joined: 2/28/2005


Claude has to put his volume hand underneath the instrument because if it were on top, it would interfere with the pitch hand. You'll notice also that he isn't always on key. He misses the only large jumps that we hear in the recording, and goes way sharp on the top note of the ascending scale.

It seems that using an Ondes-style technique presents no advantage, and also removes THE coolest feature of the theremin - that it is played in the air.

If he's going to windscreen-wipe up and down the Etherwave box, why doesn't he just forget the theremin and use an Ondes Martenot?
Posted: 9/26/2006 6:06:15 PM

From: UK

Joined: 5/16/2006

Fair point, Charlie, but there are 101 possible reasons why he has put his hand underneath the antenna (not quite sure how it would interfere with his pitch hand, but I'll take it as read for now ;-) ). I don't understand French much (all those hours of vocab sessions wasted, I see!), so if anyone does, please do tell if he explains how he came by his technique!

Well, in answer to your (rhetorical?) question, he does play the Ondes Martenot - a lot it would seem, and so he probably percieves the Theremin as a 'smaller' Ondes Martenot - hence my reasoning behind his volume and pitch hands. As to why he window-wipes, that is quite obvious - security of pitch!! Slide your hand along the box, and it becomes a violin without strings! (only much easier to play, I can tell you!)

Chances are he's one of a very select few thereminists in France (if there are any here, please do show hands), so another safe bet would be that he didn't watch the Rockmore/Kavina DVD (unless it has extra dubbed languages - in which case he's just being, well, French!! Will check that first chance I get...) hence his 'home-made' technique.

But I do have to agree - the spacial pitching, and mastery therein, is what will ultimately separate the wheat from the chaff!

Have fun,

Posted: 9/29/2006 1:26:59 PM

From: Kansas City, Mo.

Joined: 8/23/2005

I think at one time or another, most of us have tried to somehow "mark" the position of a particular note, etc. One time, I tried marking specific notes on a piece of paper that I set down on the Theremin's lectern stand (my Theremax).

Much to my surprise, I found that I still couldn't hit the notes consistantly by referencing the mark on the paper. What was going on?

The answer is that the pitch antenna has vertical as well as horizontal sensitivity -- some antennas more than others. In the case of the Theremax, its stock antenna has a lot of vertical sensitivity. The only way to "plot" a note would be to have both horizontal and vertical plot points.

The ideal Theremin antenna would have no sensitivity to up-down and sideways motion and have linear sensitivity directly to and from the rod. High-end Theremins tend to come closer to these "ideal" characteristics.

For better or worse, to play by ear in a consistant arc to and from the rod will yield the most reproduceable results.
Posted: 2/11/2007 2:09:22 PM

From: paris, france

Joined: 1/16/2007

I just discover this thread, and as I'm a Ondes Martenot's lover, and knows CS Levine works, I had to answer.

Well, he knows very well other theremin techniques, but I know he was more confident by using the techniques he uses for years with the Ondes. He only found the theremin lately, so I guess that was easier for him that way.
As for the volume, it's also a Ondist techniques, as the volume touch is pressed to get more volume, so he uses it the same way here with the theremin.
But now I agree I prefer the "classic" way to play, it's also nicer to see live, but everyone can play it his way I guess.

If you like Radiohead, check out the concert C.S did with 5 ondists (including Radiohead Jonny Greenwood) in France here :

You must be logged in to post a reply. Please log in or register for a new account.