Corrupting the next generation

Posted: 9/6/2007 10:08:45 PM
Brian R

From: Somerville, MA

Joined: 10/7/2005

Today was Middlebury College's "Academic Forum," in which froshpersons can visit one convenient location (in this case, the hockey rink) and learn about course offerings from all the different departments.

I brought my Etherwave (and a guitar to accompany the adventurous), set it up outside the entrance (so my dainty little Roland Micro Cube wouldn't be competing with the din of student hordes), and invited passing students to try their hand at it.

Frequently heard: "This is SO COOL!"

Occasionally heard: "Will you be teaching a theremin class?"

And at one point: "Is it possible to [i]major[/i] in theremin here?"

So who knows? Before long, I might not be the only thereminist in this part of Vermont.

P.S. As luck would have it, Dalit Warshaw taught here some years ago, so my thereminical activism is by no means unprecedented at Middlebury.
Posted: 9/10/2007 4:29:43 PM

From: Morrisville, PA

Joined: 10/19/2005

Had Lev Termen been able to remain in America, had RCA handled mass production correctly, had Clara rockmore continued concertizing through the '90's, had Orson Welles used a theremin in the score for Citizen Kane, then all generations past and present would now be blissfully corrupted. As it is, generational corruption is far from total, but it remains a lofty goal for those with fortitude enough to persist.

Most common dialogue when a member of my own generation witnesses the theremin:

Member: What is that you're playing?
Me: A theremin.
Member: A what?

It's all downhill from there.

You must rule Vermont. I shall take my own Roland Micro Cube into the city and corrupt from here. I salute you.


Posted: 9/14/2007 7:30:37 AM

From: Kingston, NY

Joined: 2/13/2005

Excellent, I'm so glad you fellows are doing that!

It is so fun watching young ones encounter the theremin for the first time.
In once case signs of musical talent were revealed in one boy who no one had ever considered that creative before he spontaneously pulled recognizable tunes out of thin air.

Though on a much smaller scale, I've managed to get almost a dozen youths (teens and younger) at my Theremin Salons this year.
Two from Canada are definitely aether-infected, I got a desperate message from their parents saying the boys haven't stopped asking for a theremin.
Fortunately they can get Moogs up there.

As repetitive and dismaying as facing the ignorance feels, I try never to miss a chance to indoctrinate a young impressionable mind.
{ }
Posted: 10/5/2007 2:08:29 AM
Brian R

From: Somerville, MA

Joined: 10/7/2005

More ether-pushing in Middlebury (cue Tom Lehrer's "The Old Theremin Peddler").

Wednesday evening marked the first of monthly informal meetings for music faculty, music majors, and students participating in our ensembles. Students were promised that yours truly would "reveal the secrets of the theremin." About a dozen or so attended; pizza and a good time were had by all.

Scarcely a day later, my Thursday afternoon class (beginning composition) was taken up with instrument demonstrations, culminating in the theremin (at the insistence of a senior colleague). I nearly had to bring in the Jaws of Life to tear a couple of students away from it.

Kip and John, maybe I can send the newly converted in your direction, to help you in your efforts to hypnotize more densely populated target areas.

Posted: 10/15/2007 10:51:08 AM

From: Kingston, NY

Joined: 2/13/2005

Thanks Brian R, good work!

I'd welcome the newly converted for sure. The workshops and Theremin Salons I did this summer were very effective and a blast to do. You never know how the seeds will sprout, but it's very exciting to see folks become so curious and deeply engaged once they are exposed to this crazy thing we play. It does give me hope for the Theremin.

I hadn't thought of pizza, that's always a good draw to get them in the door.
Once they get there you can lock them in till they are thoroughly Theremin-ized.
What pieces are working best for you in this kind of thing?

Congrats, hope you get to do more of these revealing sessions!
Posted: 10/15/2007 6:32:40 PM

From: Fresno, California USA

Joined: 3/26/2006

Over the past few days I read enough about the ondes martenot to get a decent idea of its interface design. Comparing it to the theremin interface, it seems obvious to me that the theremin interface is at once (as is often the case) both far simpler and more difficult to master--but simultaneously more interesting for certain personality types because it is less simple-minded [my apologies to M. Martenot] and therefore a challenge. The sounding devices devised by M. Martenot are interesting, but surpassed by modern electronic special effects.
Posted: 10/15/2007 7:02:34 PM
Brian R

From: Somerville, MA

Joined: 10/7/2005

Hi, John--

Another advantage of serving pizza is that the theremin is one of the few instruments that can be played with a piece of pizza in one's hand (which, yes, I demonstrated).

My main approach to these introductory sessions is to improvise accompaniments at the piano (or, if the room doesn't have a piano, I bring a guitar), so that the newcomers don't feel so exposed... and so that even if they're just messing around, making apparently random squawks and swoops, they can hear how such gestures can be incorporated into a musical dialogue.

Hence, in my mind at least, it's not so much about pieces that I bring. When I demonstrate that traditional melodies can be played, I usually fall back on the following:

Puccini: "O mio babbino caro"
Arlen: "Over the rainbow"
Bach: Air

There was a great moment during the demo outside the hockey rink, when I started up the Bach Air-- and two colleagues from the Music Dept. started singing the bass line! So a rendition that started as unaccompanied instantly became accompanied.

For the demo I gave to the music majors, I did bring along canned accompaniments, so add to the above:

Dowland: "Flow, my tears" (too esoteric, actually)
Purcell: Dido's Lament
Puccini: "Vissi d'arte"

The climactic high Bb in the last item is a sure crowd-pleaser.

Posted: 6/21/2009 10:59:54 AM
Thomas Grillo

From: Jackson Mississippi

Joined: 8/13/2006

It's official! The Contemporary Arts Center in New Orleans has confirmed the gig, and signed the contract. I'll be giving 5 classes per day for a week there from August 3rd, to the 7th to nearly a hundred kids attending the arts summer camp.

The CAC has named the theme of this event "Out in Space".
Posted: 6/22/2009 12:49:53 PM

From: Escondido, CA

Joined: 2/6/2008

"Another advantage of serving pizza is that the theremin is one of the few instruments that can be played with a piece of pizza in one's hand (which, yes, I demonstrated)."

And possibly the instrument that is the easiest to clean pizza sauce off of :)

Posted: 8/25/2010 11:00:05 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

[i]"I'll be giving 5 classes per day for a week there from August 3rd, to the 7th to nearly a hundred kids attending the arts summer camp." - Thomas [/i]

Thats wonderful! Best fun I had in years was introducing people to the Theremin.. and giving "lessons" - Should be absolutely fantastic if one can actually play the Theremin - as you can!

I found kids were the most excited by their first encounter - they just accept the concept, and go for it instinctively.. but about 99% of them had no interest in learning or 'mastering' any form of tune-playing.... They just love making noises, have great fun, and really enjoy it. One 12 year old boy was the exception - he visited the show (dragging his obviously bored but nonetheless supportive parents) 3 times, and spent probably 4 hours total playing the Theremins.. He could play tunes on his last visit.. His parents promised him he would get a Theremin for Xmas..

I hope you have a richly rewarding time with the kids.


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