What should I know/be able to do? and some trivia questions

Posted: 6/21/2008 7:38:22 PM

From: Toledo, Ohio United States of America

Joined: 2/22/2006

What say you tulcod?!!
And, by the way, welcome to the most illustrative Theremin World!

Good Luck!


P.S.--- BrianR, please keep hogging so much of the 7:00PM to 8:00PM hour, it's enlightening!
Posted: 6/21/2008 9:10:26 PM
Brian R

From: Somerville, MA

Joined: 10/7/2005

Thanks, Tesla-- What can I say? Touch-typing and a manic-digressive streak make a dangerous cocktail.

I think other multi-instrumentalists have commented on this site about how playing the theremin can dramatically alter your perception of how you play other instruments. I don't just mean feeling relieved that accurate intonation doesn't require special effort... but rather, you develop a much deeper sense of nuance: subtle alterations of pitch, vibrato, timing, attacks, dynamics...

Posted: 6/21/2008 9:13:58 PM
Brian R

From: Somerville, MA

Joined: 10/7/2005

[i]please keep hogging so much of the 7:00PM to 8:00PM hour[/i]

But... but that's not how it works! Theremin World isn't a big truck. It's a series of tubes (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EtOoQFa5ug8).

Posted: 6/22/2008 5:03:21 AM

Joined: 6/21/2008

@GordonC: wow, then she has it without knowing... or you just made a mistake. Listen to her "Canon in D" video on youtube. Then listen to an "originial" version of Canon in D. Guess what. Could just be that she was told a beginning note before she started that vid though.

@FredM: I kind of recognize your answer about improvisation. As a saxophonist, I often have to mess around a bit in the middle of a song. The improvisations I think of often have "effects", so I guess that won't completely fail on the theremin.

@Brian R: about the AP learning. Dude. Did you just read my mind? I'm indeed listening to a specific song every day (since yesterday (but I tried it before (but wasn't motivated enough to keep on going so it lasted for a couple of days only))). Seems like this may get somewhere, then. I personally think people without AP should focus on developing extremely fast RP and then add a constant pitch to it.

@all: thx for your massive replies. You won't find this kind of replies on a gaming forum.
Posted: 6/22/2008 5:30:39 AM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

Maybe so. But read her myspace blog entry on perfect pitch.

(linky (http://blog.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendID=59787403&blogID=316490654))
Posted: 6/22/2008 9:15:46 AM
Brian R

From: Somerville, MA

Joined: 10/7/2005

About Pamelia and the Pachelbel: Again, I strongly recommend thinking in terms of a continuum, rather than either/or.

Obviously, Pamelia had been working on the piece, and probably practiced it by using a reference "D" to start. So, I wouldn't be surprised if she could start it dead-on, even without a reference pitch before that particular performance... [i]especially[/i] if her frame of reference were already "set." (For example, if I've been playing guitar or piano for an hour or more before theremin practice... or listening to music for which I know the key... then I can often find any given note, in a way that I can't if you just stop me on the street, or wake me up in the middle of the night.)

Mind you, it's Sunday morning, I haven't had breakfast yet, I'm not fully awake. Upon reading your post, I tried to find a "D," and then checked myself with a pitch pipe. I was about a quarter-tone sharp (maybe 3/4-tone). Does this mean I have AP?

(Ideally, I would've been a full semitone flat... and then I could've congratulated myself on an historically appropriate lower pitch... oh, well... maybe next time.)

Posted: 6/22/2008 9:20:20 AM

Joined: 6/21/2008

@Brian R: Apparently a bit, yes. But it's not yet "perfect pitch", just "absolute not-yet-perfect pitch" ;)
Posted: 6/22/2008 9:40:52 AM
Brian R

From: Somerville, MA

Joined: 10/7/2005

[i]Nearly[/i]-perfect... or [i]nearing[/i] perfect...

Incidentally, I had always believed that Pamelia does have AP, so I'm highly encouraged to learn that she doesn't (at least, not in the ultimate, disabling sense that she writes about in her blog entry).

What she does have is astonishing intonational accuracy, to kill for. Speaking of Baroque music, she's done a marvelous recording of Dido's lament ("When I am laid in earth," from Henry Purcell's [i]Dido and Aeneas[/i]. (You can hear it on her mySpace page (http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendID=59787403); it's the item labeled simply as "Purcell".) The only flaw is that the piece incorporates (on paper) a literal repetition of the vocal line for each half... but in Purcell's day, no one would've dreamed of literally repeating the vocal line. Instead, one would've taken the repetition as an opportunity to show off one's ability to improvise ornaments, runs, mordents, suspensions, etc.

Yes, I feel churlish for pointing this out... but I would argue that this performance-practice shortcoming is far outweighed by the fact that [i]she recorded all five string parts with a theremin[/i]... and her intonation is so phenomenally precise that I was 3/4 of the way through listening for the first time before it hit me that [i]l'orchestre, c'est elle[/i].

Posted: 6/22/2008 1:19:15 PM
Brian R

From: Somerville, MA

Joined: 10/7/2005

Okay, some more unscientifically collected information ("anecdata"?), and then I should do useful things:

As noted above, when I tried to recall a piece of music that I haven't heard or played in months, if not a year or two, I was off by a quarter-tone (or slightly more).

However, just now, I tested myself with two pieces that I have been working with in the past week: the Queen of the Night's "Der Hölle Rache" (from Mozart's [i]The magic flute[/i], and "Isolde's transfiguration" (from Wagner's [i]Tristan and Isolde[/i]). Recalling the former's [i]altissimo[/i] arpeggios in F major, I was able to find an F exactly! Likewise, recalling the latter's opening fourth, I was able to find Eb and Ab exactly. (At first, I thought I was way off, because I was thinking that it starts with F# to B natural... then I remembered the correct starting pitches, and realized that my aural memory was dead-on.)

Lastly: I first realized that I could retain pitches from day to day when I was taking voice lessons about 15 years ago. One of the selections became my standby for finding B to C (Tom Rakewell's recitative "Here I stand," from Stravinsky's opera [i]The rake's progress[/i].) Even five years after those lessons, my memory was still reliable for this. After the Mozart and the Wagner, I decided to stretch by finding Tom's opening notes... but I was off by several semitones.

The moral of the story: My memory for pitch is most reliable over a span of hours, or days. Months and years, not so much.

P.S. Just to clarify the experimental conditions: I wasn't practicing or listening to music between posts (au contraire, I was avoiding work by playing poker on FaceBook).

Posted: 6/22/2008 7:07:40 PM

From: Eastleigh, Hampshire, U.K. ................................... Fred Mundell. ................................... Electronics Engineer. (Primarily Analogue) .. CV Synths 1974-1980 .. Theremin developer 2007 to present .. soon to be Developing / Trading as WaveCrafter.com . ...................................

Joined: 12/7/2007

[i]@FredM: I kind of recognize your answer about improvisation. As a saxophonist, I often have to mess around a bit in the middle of a song. The improvisations I think of often have "effects", so I guess that won't completely fail on the theremin.[/i]

One thing I need to clarify.. My improvisations are mostly on pieces I have composed (lay MIDI / audio tracks down sequentially to build the composition) so I know the piece well..

I think Brian's comments regarding 'live' improvisation with other players would be true.. here, I think the Theremin would be extremely difficult to play, except in parts where the chords/notes/sequences of other players is well known and rehearsed.. Or the players know each other so well that they cannot get it wrong (The keyboard player and saxphonist of Weather report, Joe Zawinal and Wayne Shorter [I think I got the names more-or-less right] spring to mind to me as the best examples of this kind of improvisation).

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