Moog Theremini Theremin

Vintage Moog Troubador Theremin on eBay

Moog Troubador Theremin (via eBay)

The History Center in Tompkins County New York has posted a Moog Troubadour Theremin for sale on eBay.  The theremin was reportedly loaned to the museum for its exhibition, "Switched-On: The Birth of the Moog Synthesizer" and was later donated for fundraising purposes.

The listing includes a short description of the provenance of this theremin:

"In 1969, my sister and her husband, Walt Siering, moved to a farm near Interlaken along with their three children. He had been working for Walter Kidde in New Jersey, and before that had been with other electronics firms. There being few such operations in Ithaca, he was fortunate to get a position with Robert Moog in Trumansburg. As an electronics engineer/technician (I'm not sure how his position was described) he worked in the Moog factory, probably helping with design and board-level troubleshooting.

At the time, I was working in New Jersey as a broadcast engineer at WPAT-FM/AM. In, probably, 1971, he presented me with a Moog Theremin, undoubtedly constructed in Trumansburg, complete with gold-colored antenna rod and walnut case. The story I heard was that Bob Moog had acquired a couple of walnut trees, had them sawn and dried, and they were used for most of the instruments built at the Trumansburg factory.

For most of its life, this theremin lived either in my music/recording room, or, for the past three years, was in a storage locker less than a mile from the Trumansburg Moog factory. When I brought it out to loan to The History Center, I fired it up (gently — paying attention to aging electronics and possible problems) — and found it still played. I had last used it for demonstrations to classes in recording technology at Ithaca College. I suspect some of the components could use replacing, since it seems to lack some sensitivity, but then it has always behaved like this. One is reluctant to make changes in a genuine vintage instrument. 

As far as I know, all parts are original. However, it may be a one-off, since I believe the circuit board is breadboarded (have not looked inside in a while) and not a production line item. I'm not sure Moog was turning out theremins for sale in the early 1970s."

The mention of the breadboard is noteworthy; either this was a prototype unit of some sort, or the original board was replaced at some point. Unfortunately, there are no photos of the inside of the unit for us to evaluate.  As always, with any online auction, we suggest doing a bit of research on your own to make sure you're buying a legitimate item.

As you can tell from the photo, the Troubador theremin bears a striking resemblance to the modern day Etherwave Theremin.  The Troubador was an evolution of the earlier Moog Melodia kit theremin and added a front panel with knobs to adjust volume, timbre, and pitch.  The volume antenna was a brass plate on the left side of the unit.

As of this posting, bidding for this item has reached $707.  A similar Troubador theremin sold back in 2005 for a little over $1000.  Not a bad markup, as these originally sold for $160 according to MoogArchives.com.

Many thanks to the readers who pointed this sale out to us!

View the auction: Moog Troubadour Theremin (c. 1961) (eBay.com)

A Visit to the Spark Museum of Electrical Invention

Spark Museum of Electrical Innovation

The Spark Museum of Electrical Invention in Bellingham, Washington is home to an outstanding collection of electronics history.  My son and I stopped by this week during Spring Break to check out their exhibits.  

The museum has an incredible collection of scientific instruments, antique radios, phonographs, televisions, microphones, batteries, motors, telegraphs, telephones, and other gadgets.  An electronics history buff could literally spend days examining all the devices on display.  Many of the items are actually for sale as well!  They have an equally impressive overflow archive of items not on display, including LPs, old issues of electronics magazines, and other devices.  Is it wrong that I want to live in this museum?

Got tubes?

Vintage radios at the Spark Museum

Of course, the highlight (and our main reason for visiting) was their theremin display.  Spark has both a Signature Series Etherwave theremin and an original RCA theremin (#200085, via RCATheremin.com).  The RCA is connected to a Model 106 speaker and is in working condition.  Normally it's not turned on for the public, but the staff graciously accepted my request to try it out.  It sounds beautiful, but I found the volume response to be a little too soft and the pitch antenna had a bit of latency.  There was also a slight gurgle in the bass register.  Still... what a treat to get to play a working RCA!  A group of students was visiting the museum that day, so I also got to give a brief impromptu demonstration for some of them.  Hopefully at least one will be inspired to try out the theremin themselves.  

(Yes, I realize the volume antenna is upside down - we'll work on getting that fixed).  

I'd like to give a special thanks to Operations Director Tana Granack and Co-Founder & Curator Jonathan Winter for their hospitality and for letting us try out the RCA theremin.  They also let us sit in on a demonstration of their singing Tesla Coil "Elvis".  Trust me, watching 400,000 volts of lighting belt out "Purple Haze" is something you simply must see to believe. 

Learn more about the museum at SparkMuseum.org, and be sure to check it out if you're in the Seattle/Bellingham/Vancouver BC area!  And while you're there, be sure to stop at Rocket Donuts across the street to hang with Gort! 

Gort at Rocket Donuts

Theremin Classique: New Music from Armen Ra

Armen Ra - Theremin Classique

We're happy to announce that Thereminist Armen Ra has released a new album!  Theremin Classique was released on April 1 and contains 10 tracks:

  • Casta Diva Norma / Bellini
  • Je croix entendre encore /The Pearl Fishers/ Bizet
  • Mon coeur s’ouvre a ta voix Samson & Delilah /Saint Sa�ns
  • The Swan Carnival Of Animals / Saint Sa�ns
  • Ebben? ne andro lontana La Wally / Catalani
  • Sola perduta abandonatta Manon Lescaut/ Puccini
  • Una furtive lagrima Ilixir of Love / Donizetti
  • Nocturne / Chopin
  • Dido’s Lament Dido & Aeneas / Purcell
  • Un bel di vedremo Madama Butterfly / Puccini

The album is available via iTunes and Amazon.com.

Thorwald Jørgensen at the X Rio Harpfestival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

After having played at the Electromagnectica Festival in Santiago de Chile, Thorwald J�rgensen is now traveling to South America once again. Thorwald and harpist Renske de Leuw will be performing at the X Rio Harpfestival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. They will perform several concerts at different festival locations with their repertoire consisting of a mix of original music written for the duo and classical transcriptions. The Bachianas Brasileiras no.5 by Villa Lobos which you can hear in the link below will of course be included in their programme. 

Check www.thorwaldjorgensen.com for more information.

Moog Releases Theremini Patch Editor for Mac and PC

Theremini Editor for Mac and PC

Moog Music has released their Theremini patch editor software for the Mac and PC.  Previously only available for the iPad, the Theremini editor software allows you to manage the various sounds on your Theremini as well as create your own new sounds.  

To use the software with your Theremini, you'll need a mini-USB cable to connect it to your computer.  You can then back up the original sounds, modify them, and load new sounds onto your Theremini.  The whole process is quick and simple.

To download the software, you'll need to first register your Theremini at Moog's website.