VR Theremin-a step too far?

Posted: 1/2/2020 11:06:23 PM
RoyP

From: Scotland

Joined: 9/27/2012

Hello all (and a Happy 2020 to you all!),


recently, I have been playing around with Virtual Reality (VR) and found a few VR theremins out there.


Here, I want to consider the audience reaction of such an 'instrument' being played.


For example, consider a traditional theremin:

The audience will see a person waving their hands at this thing with two antennae sticking from it with ethereal noises coming from a sound system of some kind.

Compare this to a VR theremin:

the audience see someone wearing a VR headset, waving their hands in fresh air, at nothing, and ethereal noises coming from a sound system of some kind.

Is this one step too far in weirdness for an audience to comprehend?

Posted: 1/3/2020 6:34:30 PM
rupertchappelle

From: earth

Joined: 5/8/2017

It is a VR violin and voice as it was . . . 

Posted: 1/8/2020 8:55:22 PM
EmmaNZ

From: Wellington, New Zealand

Joined: 9/20/2019

Hi Roy,

Reading your post, I am reminded of Imogen Heap's 'Mi.mu gloves', in the way that the artist moves their hands through the air to create music, without really interacting with a physical instrument (in the traditional sense).

VR theremins sound awesome! I personally think this kind of stuff is fascinating and I love to see musicians and artists stretching the bounds of reality to create art. I'm sure there are people who would find it disconcerting and too weird.

It takes all sorts, I say!

Posted: 1/8/2020 11:30:35 PM
DreadVox

From: The East of Netherlands

Joined: 6/18/2019

Lev and Michel

Posted: 1/11/2020 1:50:04 PM
coalport

From: Canada

Joined: 8/1/2008

RoyP asks: “Is this one step too far in weirdness for audiences to comprehend?”

That will depend on the audience. If you are playing for general audiences then the simple answer is probably YES.

I have played my Moog MIDI Ethervox with several symphony orchestras, and here’s what I found. Whenever I played the instrument as a traditional theremin, I would first explain to the audience what I was doing and how the instrument worked. Then I’d play a couple of familiar classical potboilers (THE SWAN, VOCALISE, etc.) and people would leap to their feet in appreciation.

Then I would switch to the MIDI function (which I would also explain) and the people would hear choirs and bells and stunning FX coming from the stereo bins on either side of the stage. For this, I would accompany the orchestra in a performance of familiar standards like NIGHT ON BALD MOUNTAIN or THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE, using the E’Vox CHROMATIC MODE so I was able to play anything the orchestra could play, using full harmony (and an impressive bank of MIDI modules).

People watched me wave my arms wildly in the air but their brains made no connection between what they were seeing and what they were hearing. There was too much technology involved for a simple appreciation of the performance. After the concert, people would come up and ask me if I was making all those amazing sounds with the theremin - and this was AFTER I had offered a full explanation of the digital interface.

With general audiences, the more sophisticated the technology, the greater the disconnect.


Posted: 1/11/2020 2:57:19 PM
dewster

From: Northern NJ, USA

Joined: 2/17/2012

"With general audiences, the more sophisticated the technology, the greater the disconnect."  - coalport

Indeed.  Speaking as a lay audience member rather than a performer: Like the next gazebo, I'm impressed with virtuosity and love to see it in action, but since it is usually a feat, it needs to be clearly presented as entirely the work of the performer, and not some cheap trick.

Many moons ago I saw ZZ Top perform live, and at one point they both spun their guitars about pivots mounted on their belts - while lead guitar and bass sounds were coming out of the PA!  My thought at the time: "OMFG, is anyone in the band actually playing anything?"

Around the same time I caught a girl group at a local venue where all three of them played keyboards that I knew were capable of MIDI sequencing.  The keyboards themselves were arranged so the players faced the audience, with the keyboard playing itself (perhaps conveniently?) entirely obscured.  Despite the decent wall of sound, I just couldn't get impressed.  It sounded too perfect, so I assumed it was just too good to be true, and that I was likely being duped.

As in much performance art, the entertainment happens when the audience is able to (in some way) put themselves in the shoes of the performer.

Posted: 1/11/2020 8:43:36 PM
oldtemecula

From: 60 Miles North of San Diego, CA

Joined: 10/1/2014


I believe one of the core fundamentals of the theremin is it should be of simple electronic design principles that does something beautiful. The main advantage of a digital theremin is it should be able to play itself like a player piano. Set one on everybody's table in the coffee shop and drop in a dime, then there is Karaoke on saturday night.

The theremin is so strange I wonder how many have used an excellent recording of PP and faked the motions to dupe the crowd. If you play for survival and to pay your rent you could also get a monkey for grabbing the tips. Real busking has too many environmental issues to be beautiful so probably better in the VR realm where the monkey will talk.


Posted: 1/12/2020 2:30:17 PM
coalport

From: Canada

Joined: 8/1/2008

Old T. wrote:  “I believe one of the core fundamentals of the theremin is it should be of simple electronic design that does something beautiful.”

I think everyone would agree with this statement. Where people disagree is what constitutes “something beautiful”.

Posted: 1/12/2020 4:13:42 PM
dewster

From: Northern NJ, USA

Joined: 2/17/2012

"I believe one of the core fundamentals of the theremin is it should be of simple electronic design that does something beautiful."

There's absolutely nothing wrong with pursuing certain narrow fields, such as analog Theremin design, as long as one is up-front about it, and aware of the rather severe limitations that may impose.

With knowledge comes power, but those who eschew electrical engineering will be hamstrung and limited to simple analog electronic designs.  Simplicity is at the very heart of science & engineering, so it is always a sub-goal, but never the goal.  And dead simple can only get you so far in this biz. 

Those who care deeply about their field of study will do whatever it takes to advance it.

Posted: 1/17/2020 5:12:40 PM
rupertchappelle

From: earth

Joined: 5/8/2017

"The main advantage of a digital theremin is it should be able to play itself like a player piano."

The human being is the most important part of  the theremin. Perfect playback is best done with MIDI and computers and is best not listened to or appreciated - product is noise. Art is not. Art has a human being behind it.

.

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