Gordon's Progress

Posted: 12/29/2005 12:45:42 PM

From: Ypsilanti, MI, USA

Joined: 9/29/2005

The Residents Commercial album was the first Residents record I ever owned. I used to torture the college kids at the resteraunt I worked at on U of M's campus with it constantly. That and Throbbing Gristle's CD1.

Sounds like the music store your going to is cool.
Posted: 12/29/2005 4:27:52 PM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

Nope - I haven't seen any thereminists live. I don't even think Pere Ubu used one at the gig I went to - DT was busy hitting a cow bell with a hammer most of the time.

Bit of a breakthrough! Thought I'd see what the saw-tooth setting sounded like on the new amp. Ha - with a bit of knob twiddling, no more irritated mosquito. Now it's somewhere between an overweight bumble bee and a kazoo - which is somewhat enhanced by a little up-flick at the end of a note. It's rather pleasant, despite my recent assertions as to what sort of sound I wanted, and the word jaunty springs to mind. And by being less soft - less mellow than the sounds I was making before the notes seem more clearly defined.

So I would try a round. Alas my delay does not stretch beyond about a second, and my attempt to play London's Burning very quickly was doomed before it began, frankly. But - by speeding up the delay a bit I found I could beat time along with it with my left hand, at first counting 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 and then silently humming a little tune, pointing to the various notes of it with my right hand, echoing the beat of my left hand in my right by moving in little U shapes between notes - no knuckle extensions here.

I found I could play the same pattern at different pitches, and make variations on the basic pattern - sometimes even intentionally.

Was I in tune? I remain optimistic here - now and then I knew I hit a bad note, and I did not get that feeling all the time and, as each note was accompanied by it's predecessor, (and the note before that to a lesser extent) I suspect really bad relative pitch would have been quite apparent. With respect to being in tune I am taking a sort of Zen approach to learning - I have tunefulness in mind but do not consciously try to achieve it, instead I just allow my hands to go to the right place - working on the basis that I tend to learn [i]despite[/i] people's (including my own) best efforts to teach me.

One interesting thought. A while ago in some other topic I asked, jokingly, if one played a theremin so much as conducted it, given that one's body is a part of the circuit. Well, this felt very much like conducting, beating time with one hand, pointing to notes with the other.

This means I can now make lush drifty backgrounds [i]and[/i] a bouncy lead voice. Multi-tracking, here I come. I suspect I might be hauling my minidisc recorder out of whatever cupboard it is maturing in.

Also, I should think I'll be able to get a much longer delay using the iBook - set up a mike in front of the amp, use the minidisk to amplify the signal to line-out levels (I know - I should be the proper equipment - my music budget is spent out for a while) and feed it into the iBook, then figure out how to get it to play the echo but not the original note in garageband (is this perhaps something to do with wet mix/dry mix?) latency ceases to be an issue when everything it plays back is delayed anyway.

And I have a couple of points where I can record. In fact, if I recall correctly my minidisk recorder [i]has[/i] to be recording to get it to send the mike signal to the headphone socket, which provides a good level for the computer at full volume.

Posted: 1/1/2006 7:59:14 PM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

"My name is Gordon Charlton, and I am a thereminist."

I first realised I had a serious theremining problem yesterday when I caught myself actually [i]enjoying[/i] the squeak of rusty door hinges!

Is this a common phenomenon?
Posted: 1/1/2006 9:01:12 PM

From: Kansas City, Mo.

Joined: 8/23/2005

Well, I have always enjoyed door squeaks, particularly when the lil kids are within earshot and I can tease them about the place being "haunted".

My affliction is different... every vertical object becomes a "pitch antenna" in my imagination and I want to start doing Aerial Fingering excercises to the object.

One of the advantages of the Theremin is that one can practice it anywhere without an instrument. Of course, it could prove a disadvantage (or at least attract some strange looks) if you are practicing, say, in a checkout line at the store. Then again, if there any other Theremin affecionados within sight you have an instant conversation starter.
Posted: 1/3/2006 10:10:02 AM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

Edweird! I have ordered the Residents Commercial DVD! (link (http://www.mute.com/releases/viewRelease.jsp?id=41286))

Something pleasing happened yesterday...

Cranked the delay unit right up, turned all the knobs fully clockwise, big bunch of reverb and gave it wriggling worms in the midrange. (Wriggling worms - for twittering birdies put hand near pitch aerial, wriggle fingers rapidly like a mouthful of worms for the baby birds and out they come to feed...)

Bingo! It's the music from 2001 A Space Odyssey. Not the monkey bone-throwing tune - the harmonic drone of "Jupiter and Beyond". Excellent! 2001 was my first experience of non-melodic music - the stuff they don't play on the radio - and a major influence on my musical preferences.

Added some arm movement - dragging my hand slowly towards and away from the pitch aerial - now it's the swirling travel-nausea tune (I don't remember its name) on Northern Lights by Philip Glass. Woo!

(Later I listened to Jupiter and Beyond. Actually it wasn't much like it in many ways. But in other ways it was. It felt right. The whole thing was odd in another way - the idea came to me whilst trying to pick out the guitar line from Interstellar Overdrive by Pink Floyd. Serendipity - that's a long word :-)
Posted: 1/4/2006 1:06:39 AM

From: Kansas City, Mo.

Joined: 8/23/2005


I too really enjoy the soundtrack to 2001: A Space Odessy.

You might be interested to know that Ligetti's music IS notated and uses techniques known as "cluster harmony" and "parallelism".

The combination of your closely spaced pitches (the wriggling worms) and the delay effect (to run the notes together) would give the same general effect as parallel clusters.

Now -- to really get a cool effect...

set your delay's feedback up high.. so it repeats for around 30 seconds... do the wriggling worms however fade in and fade out your volume hand gradually -- also... don't gliss -- just do your wriggling in one place.... when you fade out the volume -- before bringing it back up again, move your pitch hand to another spot -- start wriggling and fade in the volume again... repeat the process.

This will give you the effect of the clusters interleaving... as one is fading out another is fading in. Also, occasionally do a fade-in/fade-out without wriggling... just a steady pitch...

Give this a try... if you like the Ligetti you may enjoy the result you get.

Gordon, it is REALLY FUN to see how much fun you are having with the Theremin. Thanks for sharing.

-- Kevin
Posted: 1/4/2006 12:30:17 PM
Charlie D

From: England

Joined: 2/28/2005

Cluster chords. How relevant. You know who invented them? Henry Cowell, who was also the inventor of the Rhythmicon. . . . which was realised and built by?

Léon Theremin!

Well OK. Technically Cowell did not invent the concept of banging a piano, but what he did do is discover how such a seemingly unmusical action could be incorporated into proper, organised music. Try to find a recording of 'The Tides of Manaunaun.' Prettyspectacular - and it was a particular favourite of Percy Grainger (Free Music? Theremins?). I think it manages to evoke the feel of more than one instrument, but sounds a bit like a nice pianist being plagued by a three year old on the lower notes.

Actually, on second thoughts, you can here it here:


Posted: 1/4/2006 5:38:58 PM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

kkissinger - you're right, that sounds really great. Also creeping up the pitch in little steps avoids the glissing sound and gives a rising cluster drone.

Charlie D. That was a wonderful link. What a great site. Yup, The Tides of Manaunaun is great. Sounded like a fairly musical three year old to me. Also enjoyed Harp of Life and Aeolian Harp.

Reminds me of when my parents had a piano - I would be eleven or twelve when we got it and I remember distinctly enjoying making cluster chords and strumming the strings directly. What child doesn't?

So, perhaps if my parents had heard of Mr Cowell perhaps they would not have objected so.

Also puts me in mind of Brian Eno - one of the pieces he did whilst at college was to crash his arm down on a piano 3600 times - once a second for an hour. Fortunately no recording exists of this. (Although the review I read of it did suggest that if you could survive the first ten minutes you would start to get into it.)

Posted: 1/6/2006 3:36:49 PM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

An interesting development. My iBook died. At the moment I'm not sure if it is a mechanical failure of part of the hard disk or that part of the file structure is corrupted so I'm handing it over to the experts.

This is a nuisance, but nothing more. The mac mini holds most of the files I actually care about but my access to it is a bit limited as it is in my son's bedroom so late night postings are on hold for a while, as are most computer related activities.

So, when its good make the most of it, when its bad make the best of it.

This is an excellent opportunity to record some of my playing onto minidisk and hopefully by the time the iBook is repaired I'll have enough samples to make something out of them.

So I may be a little quieter than usual for a while, but hopefully something good will come of it.

Posted: 1/6/2006 4:43:34 PM

From: Kansas City, Mo.

Joined: 8/23/2005


Major Bummer about your computer. Here is a little limerick to cheer you up:

A record whenever 'twas filed
would make all disk drives go wild.
With beer by the keg
they drank 'till each meg
of their storage was trashed in a pile.

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