PWO Theremin - Kickstarter

Posted: 3/28/2013 12:56:20 AM

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 . ...................................

Joined: 12/7/2007


Many thanks for that link - Pedro Reyes starts at about 31:15 and it is a lovely 'chat'.. I get quite astounded sometimes by the "coincidences" life seems to throw up - this program was broadcast yesterday, right at the time I am battling with the issues.. Turning weapons into musical instruments is not a common topic! - And Pedro goes right to the heart of my primary "objection" to the idea..

My greatest difficulty has been the fact that these weapons retain their look - that they havent been bashed out of recognition and turned into musical instruments..

Pedro had done just that - took 1500 donated weapons and melted them down so that their "origin" could not be identified at all,  and turned them into shovels, and these shovels planted 1500 trees.. He is obviously deeply comitted to reduction of manufacture of weapons and highly critical of the arms industry which drives the war machine.

But Pedro chose to retain the recognisability of the weapons in his latest musical creations. I am inclined to trust his judgment, as I do not have any doubt about his commitment.. I do not have an "artistic" perspective, he is an artist  - whats more, his art is at least causing these issues to be discussed - and the more of that we have - the more people think about these issues, the better.


Thank you for your kind and encouraging words.. Pedro removed the last of my ethical reservations, So I will not turn this job down because I have a problem in this area.. Its now over to Kickstarter, money, and the PWO to determine what happens next.



Posted: 3/29/2013 8:53:50 PM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005


On a side note, the PWO is getting a fair deal of publicity, and pretty much all the articles mention theremins in the first paragraph.

For example, 


Posted: 4/14/2013 2:46:50 AM

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 . ...................................

Joined: 12/7/2007

The Kickstarter appeal has been cancelled because (?) the major concert at Glastonbury has been cancelled until 2014..

I think it highly unlikely that I will be working with the PWO in future. They dont play open hand, and I dont like the way they do business... And thats what they are - A business, capitalising on dreams and goodwill of others.


Posted: 4/21/2013 3:26:01 PM

From: London, England

Joined: 10/4/2006

In defence of the The Post War Orchestra . . . .  just over a week ago, we learned that Charles Hazelwood (the organiser and curator of Orchestra in a Field) and his manager had decided, quite out of the blue, to cancel the 2 day festival which was due to take place at Glastonbury Abbey in July 2013.

The Post War Orchestra (which aims to convert weapons into musical instruments) was booked to perform at OIF, and was running a Kickstarter campaign to raise finance to help with instrument building (including the conversion of a Maxim machine gun into a Theremin), and also to facilitate the rehearsals, create films, employ a road crew and generally produce a professional show. However, since the Kickstarter 'reward structure' (where backers receive something in return for a donation) was inextricably linked to OIF taking place (eg the VIP tickets were a very significant part of the fund-raising appeal), the PWO had no choice but to pull the Kickstarter campaign - otherwise, it would have found itself in breach of contract.

It's unfortunate that Fred got to hear about this earlier this week in a round-robin newsletter but we literally had to inform thousands of people in a very short space of time. Incidentally it's also worth noting for the record that at no stage was anyone officially commissioned by the PWO to undertake the Maxim / Theremin conversion; Fred states this clearly. Discussions took place regarding technical feasibility, with both Fred and Thierry - but this was - as I understand it - fairly informal. However it seems that both Fred and Thierry have put a considerable amount of thought into this, and on behalf of the Post War Orchestra, I offer the sincerest apologies to both of you for any misunderstanding which may have taken place.

I however must take issue with the statement "They don't play open hand, and I dont like the way they do business... And thats what they are - A business, capitalising on dreams and goodwill of others." We have never been anything other than totally open - yes there has been a misunderstanding which we seek to redress, plus we are not actually a 'business' (although I hope in the fullness of time the project can pay its way and donate to humanitarian causes) because up to now, The Post War Orchestra has been entirely self-funded with considerable support from the artist Hilary Champion and her husband Phil, and in addition, a small group of dedicated artists and musicians (including Gordon C) who have given their time willingly and freely, during the past four years of development.

The Maxim Theremin project is therefore currently on hold - but the Post War Orchestra does not die! Incidentally, anyone interested can see the Mexican Pedro Reyes 'Disarm' exhibition at the Lisson gallery in London for a few more weeks - it really is inspirational.

Turning weapons into musical instruments is an idea which IMHO could (should) be spread worldwide.



Posted: 4/21/2013 6:31:55 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 . ...................................

Joined: 12/7/2007

It is a shame that things went this way..

"open hand" to me is letting those you contact know exactly what you are doing... When first approached, although not contractually committed, there was absolutely nothing to give me any idea that any other engineers were being asked about involvement - If I had permitted it (and if it had been possible for me to accept it) the Maxim would have been brought to my home the very week I was first approached.

Yes - I spent quite a lot of time evaluating the project, and preparing to undertake it .. Although "unconfirmed", there was an extremely tight deadline set for completing the job, and I did not believe I could afford to wait until I got full confirmation - NEVER at ANY point in ANY discussion was the possibility that someone else might be given the job mentioned or even hinted at.

Then I read a PWO "blog" stating that (I paraphrase from memory) "The Maxim theremin had been worked on for a year, and was nearly completed" (I still have no idea about that - was it a lie ? or have I been lied to ? I cannot see how it can be neither of those! )  - And a planned meeting to examine the Maxim was cancelled at short notice, and communication from PWO ceased.. I then heard a rumor about Thierry possibly being requested to do the job.

Perhaps my posting was a bit harsh - For this I apologise..  But the time it would have taken to contact me and put all the cards on the table is a tiny fraction of the time I spent on this "project".. I knew that the project was dependant on Kick Starter - and that time I spent was "at risk" if this did not achieve its goals - but at no time was I remotely aware that there were any "other risks" to my involvement with the PWO.. This is the context of my "open hand" comment, and I think this comment is fully justified.. Right at the outset, I should have been informed that Thierry had been / was being approached about the job, and if Thierry was not informed that I had been approached, he should have been! - To lead me (and possibly Thierry) on without this knowlege was simply wrong, and if not "dishonest" close enough to "dishonest" IMO as to be equivalent to dishonest.

We will never get any of the dreams alledgedly aspired to by the PWO if we cannot even be open and honest with the people we deal with in the here and now. The future starts today - Forget preaching, and start living what one would preach, and we may get on the road to enlightenment.. perhaps..

But behave like the above (and I include myself in this critisism - I should have tried to open the channels and put the issues which were bothering me on the table, rather than gone off in a huff), and we will end up having plenty of old weapons to turn into musical instruments FOREVER, because production of new weapons will not stop, and old ones will be available because these are REPLACED by more modern weapons - Not because weapons have been made redundant.

Pedro took functional weapons surrendered / donated, and destroyed them, 1500 guns turned to 1500 shovels to plant 1500 trees.. a real symbol of change. PWO buys weapons and IMO is borderline with its regard to its true stance -  "apolitical" and not vehemently opposed to the arms industry as far as I can see..  Pedro's entire focus is on highlighting the arms industry and campaigning for manufacture of weapons to be at least reduced now. This is present tense stuff - not pie-in-the-sky "when all war has ended" stuff! Pedro is certainly not apolitical when it comes to arms.. We wont get any change by playing weapons converted into musical instruments unless this is complemented (as Pedro does) by unequivocal condemnation of the arms industry.

I have now realised that am too passionate in my DETESTATION of the MURDER industry to be at home with the PWO's ambivalence.. If the PWO ever became openly hostile to the arms industry and had a real strong delivery focussed on this theme, I would be willing to work as an engineer for them free of charge .. But while there is any possibility that "PWO" could be mistaken for "Pro War Orchestra" I will not touch them.. Within the context of unambiguous hostility to the arms industry, I can just about tolerate the sight of instruments of murder, in any other context (as "art" or whatever) the idea is sickening to me.

I am an extreme case, I accept this.. I saw the 1999-2000 new year in alone at the local cenetaph - Something "moved" me to go there.. The sound of the fireworks just brought back too much pain and rage. Perhaps those who have never sheltered from an attack and seen people blown apart by these most wicked of human inventions can never share what I feel.. I have never "healed" from seeing 2 parents holding their dead child after that attack.

If I had the power, I would take every person knowingly involved in design, production, and /or distribution  of weapons (and those knowingly making money by investing in such "industry") for the sake of profit (Specifically, I am not talking about weapons produced for legitimate national defence - or at times when evils like facism would over-run peaceful peoples - I am talking about the arms industry, which sells to all players and deliberately promotes conflict in order to boost sales - and most particularly those weapons like mines and cluster bombs whos primary role is in killing and maiming civilians and laying a foundation of terror - creating the next generations of arms purchasers - those seeking revenge for their stolen lives ) , and use these weapons for the last time.. To blow those scum off the face of this planet. - And yes, I can see the irony and my hypocricy - this is just pure fantasy anyway, and has nothing real about it... I also know that placed in the position of any of these people and given their matrix, I would do the same .. But I hope that if I ever became "that", someone would blow me away.....

I was always the wrong person for the PWO.. Perhaps I knew this deep inside - I supressed my revultion at watching the video of the "shopping spree" where "instruments" were being bought - And my discomfort at the terms being used to describe the PWO team:  "Armourer" and "suit" for example.. It just conveyed to me notions which should be abhorent to anyone opposed to the arms industry or war - more akin to managment of a private army than an anti-war orchestra to present a concert at Glastonbury.

I was the wrong person - I dont do "lefty" or "hippy" or whatever because its "trendy" or "arty" - And I dont really compromise or play games.. Its between the eyes, unfiltered, undiplomatic from me - harsh. Not really suited to most (if any) "normal" way that humans behave. I wish I could be otherwise - I would probably be a lot happier and a lot better liked, but this is who I am.


Posted: 4/22/2013 9:09:16 PM

From: London, England

Joined: 10/4/2006

Dear Fred - this is a passionate and moving response . . . and I'm sorry I had no idea that you'd experienced such trauma first hand - it sounds ghastly.

This is clearly a hugely sensitive subject, but just for the record I'm pretty sure I mentioned to you early on in our conversation that I had run this "how do you build a Theremin on top of a heavy metal, water-cooled machine gun on wheels" concept by Thierry quite early on - of course I could be mistaken, and hopefully this is my last apology to you and Thierry.

Anyway we've both 'had our say' on the unfortunate (mis)handling of the dialogue - let's not keep going over it.

However, I really do take on board your comments about the "Apolitical" stance of the PWO, and part of Hilary Champion's original manifesto was that the project should not be directly judgemental (in the same way that the Red Cross doesn't comment - it simply gets on with the job). It was and is, her view that the instruments should speak for themselves and that people should think for themselves, and draw their own conclusions when confronted with the instruments. Mexican artist Pedro Reyes, on the other hand, is far more outspoken and strongly suggests we cease to produce weapons entirely; we have after all got enough to kill everyone in the world 7 times over - and that doesn't even include nuclear bombs! He has a point and he speaks convincingly.

I remain an optimist - only a few hundred years ago, England itself would have been in a constant state of war - violence and bloodshed the norm - in fact war was a 'season' - you'd be either preparing for it, involved in it or just getting over it (the Swords into Ploughshares bit) but now we have developed a better sense of self-preservation, mutual co-operation and an understanding of basic human rights; other, more primitive societies are not so lucky, but they are further down the evolutionary ladder - I optimistically believe they will gradually self-educate (women will have a lot to do with this) and evolve towards what the Futurist Michio Kaku calls the Global Civilisation.


Posted: 4/23/2013 12:03:49 AM

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 . ...................................

Joined: 12/7/2007

"hopefully this is my last apology to you and Thierry." - BW

No apology is needed to me, but it is accepted anyway. Likewise, I am sorry about my "business" snipe - I did / do not have any factual basis for such a accusation, and for this I apologise. I do know with absolute certainty that Thierrys name was not mentioned in any conversation (and there was no hint that anyone else had been consulted) - but its an irrelevance to me now.

My "fault" was probably greater than any "fault" by the PWO, and I was possibly more dishonest in my communications - I had grave misgivings about the whole idea (the ethical, not the technical aspects - the technical stuff* is not too difficult to overcome.. In fact, If the theremin designs I am presently working on did get to market, anyone could simply buy a couple of boards and convert any object to a good theremin- the shielding technology can make anything effectively "invisible" to the theremin.. Stealth technology if you like - well suited to hiding guns and launchers etc from theremins ;-).. I was trying to hide what my concience was "saying" to me from myself - Being "dishonest" with oneself inevitably leads to "dishonesty" with others. You did give clues quite early that the PWO was not actually anti-arms or anti-war, and I chose not to hear this.

I could drag this conversation on ad-nauseum, and argue that parallels between the IRC and  PWO are faulty (in the extreme), but I think there is no point.

My recently aquired determinist perspective makes it all quite pointless - Everything we said and did was effectively scripted at the start of time - we had no freedom to change one word or action, and what has happened will impact our matrices and influence our future actions and choices (and, in the long term, the world) in ways we cannot know and cannot change even if we did know... This is the reality - and I lurch between accepting this reality and becoming apathetic, and forgetting or ignoring  this reality and becoming passionate.

I watched Desmond Tutu talking about this yesterday - the fact that change the circumstances, and anyone could be a arms dealer or a murderer or a victim .. its all down to "the grace of god" and that when being judgmental, reminding oneself that "but for the grace of god, that would be me.." is a good idea.. Desmond is the closest thing to a human "Yoda" I have ever met- When we were attacked with mustard gas grenades while holding a memorial service for Steve Biko (in Cape Town) , I panicked and dashed for the door without thought for others - Desmond was walking through the gas calmly assisting people.. Outside people were coughing up blood, but he was still inside, ensuring that everyone had left the building safely... It was my rage at myself and my disgraceful behaviour which drove me to actively and deliberately undertake dangerous missions for the ANC.. I have always lurched reactively, taking responsibility when I "fail" and overcompensating to correct the "failure"..

If only I could have seen years ago what I (sometimes) see today - That I was never "responsible" for anything I did, and that even the most vile individual is not truly "responsible" for their "evil" acts... That we are all just playing the part we must play - and that in order to play our part with conviction, we must believe that we are free agents.. LOL ;-)

No doubt the majority reading this will disagree and think I am mad - Thats ok - In fact, its better that way! ;-)


*I was heavily into research on this technology prior to PWO, - the Maxim job just steered my efforts towards constructing a basic prototype I intended to test on the Maxim to get a crude idea about its actual performance.. This was a diversion I would not otherwise have undertaken - but some useful information was derived from the prototype, so this time was not wasted.

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