17 year old Gregoire White plays Faure pavanne for 3 theremins

Posted: 11/28/2013 1:04:56 PM

From: Canada

Joined: 8/1/2008

For years people have been dreaming about, and discussing, the polyphonic theremin. FORGET IT! Just look at the difficulty we have playing the single-voice instrument. Can you imagine attempting to control volume and THREE voices? You would have to be the multi-armed Hindu god Shiva to do it with anything coming even close to precision.


If you want a polyphonic theremin you can plug your Etherwave into a harmonizer or pitch shifter of some sort, but what you will end up with will be more of a polyphonic effect than a workable, practical, musical instrument. 


A number of years ago, an inventor came up with a two-voice theremin which I personally experimented with. It was basically a conventional theremin with an added third dimension.


In order to get around the problem of interference between THREE independent electromagnetic fields (one for volume control and two for pitch), the inventor came up with the ingenious idea of using echo location of lateral pitch arm movement for the second voice. Voice one was controlled conventionally toward and away from the rod, but the second voice was controlled by right/left movement of the same arm (volume was controlled via the loop, as it is with conventional theremins).


On second thought........if I remember correctly.......it was in fact the VOLUME ARM that controlled the second voice (by lateral echo location) as well as volume (by proximity to the loop). It must have been that because lateral arm movement of the pitch arm would have interfered with distance from the rod, which would have made the two voices impossible to control simultaneously.


It was a great idea and fun to experiment with but it wasn't feasible. Charles Richard Lester, who tried out the same prototype instrument, came to the same conclusion as I did.


As Thomas Edison said, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that don't work".

Posted: 11/28/2013 4:40:39 PM
RS Theremin

From: 60 mi. N of San Diego CA

Joined: 2/15/2005

As Thomas Edison said, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that don't work".

That is the typical path of the theremin developer, now if I could only keep the Raging Bull off my back and out in the pasture where he can spend his days licking lithium salt blocks. One possible procedure needed would be to clip his nuts and then we would have a mellow steer. That makes for a tasty and tender BBQ.  Watch someone jump in offended because they are vegetarian?

Do I smell foul?   Happy Thanksgiving in the new world.

That for me is conflicted as the happiness was based upon who had the better weapons.


Posted: 11/28/2013 8:34:49 PM

From: Northern NJ, USA

Joined: 2/17/2012

I guess I was thinking in terms of most of the real playing going on with the left hand.  The right would then be used more for vibrato, and for gliding single notes / whole chords around some distance.  Probably crazy.

Posted: 11/28/2013 9:11:04 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 think that this is the problem with the theremin - it SEEMS to hold so much promise, to be underdeveloped and forgotten - a wonderful musical instrument that could be far "better" and has so much more potential IF it was re-engineered..

Yes, the basic theremin can be improved - but IMO, not nearly as much as us technologists dream .. it can have a wider sound pallette, it can have better control features for its basic operations (linearity, span etc) it can be made more robust and less sensitive to interference, etc..

but, at its core, it has "limitations" that cannot be overcome, no matter how much technology we throw at it.. We have 2 hands, we need one for pitch and have one spare for volume and perhaps a few other non-critical functions (tone, panning, formants - whatever).

To go beyond the above, an entirely different interface is required - gestural recognition and that sort of stuff MAY be a direction..

But I do not see any way that any musical instrument will ever facilitate the playing of more than two monophonic free-pitch parts simultaneously, and probably not even two parts will be managed if both volume and pitch of each part need to be controlled independently - gestural controllers may technically enable this (for example, each hands position controlling a pitch, and each hands gesture controlling its volume, or, with a simpler capacitive system, X,Y and Z movements of each hand performing these functions - My expierience here tells me that accurate single handed XY/Z control of pitch and volume even with one hand is near impossible) but, IMO, thats probably the limit for anyone with only two arms!


--> Added :

ps - About the video.. Does anyone know of a low cost editor which enables overlaying like that? In particular, one which has the ability to sync the clips to audio (I have some videos - and want to do some more - of multi tracked performance - but the only 'sync' for these clips is the audio recorded by the camcorder - this audio builds up as the layers are added - so the first 'take' is sparse, but the last may be the complete piece .. I would like to load these clips into an editor and get the clips lined up against the master audio track, so I could cross-fade or manipulate the video clips and keep them locked to the audio...

I have thought about recording a audio SMPTE (or whatever ) track to the camcorder while filming, but wondered if anyone has some advice..

"And only two brain halves!" - Dewster

That, actually, may be the most important limitation! ;-) ..

Posted: 11/28/2013 10:11:41 PM

From: Northern NJ, USA

Joined: 2/17/2012

"... but, IMO, thats probably the limit for anyone with only two arms!"  - FredM

And only two brain halves!

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