A new forum for working thereminists

Posted: 5/22/2013 9:24:40 AM
All Souls Night

Joined: 5/22/2012

My first real theremin gig was at Joes Pub with Rob and Dorit. As nerve wrecking it was, it really taught me a lot. I hope peoplas enjoyed our songs. I now I did enjoy being there!

You were great Amethyste and very much in tune at the Joe's Pub gig. People really enjoyed your singing and playing. It was beautiful and very musical.

I am very grateful for the monthly concert gigs we do upstate in the local church - casual, but high musical standards. It is a great way to test drive new songs in public and for learning to play the theremin in front of an audience -- which has such different problems than playing/singing in the safety of the living room. YOIKS!

Learning to control the shaky adrenaline, and to focus out of the gate instead of feeling like a deer in the headlights for the first few measures, with initially iffy intonation that gets better a little later in the piece. I had the same issues when I started back into singing in public after stopping for a few years. Just the act of doing it, repeatedly, was such a help and now I try applying that to the theremin and each time gets better. Still a long way from where I want to be, but at least making progress. I am also lucky to be in NYC where there are open mic nights and people are fascinated by the theremin.

We have used the concert series as a development center for music for the last 10 years. I am getting my sea legs on the theremin in public, which is so valuable. In a way, it is nice to not have to worry about a "career" on the theremin. I really love playing it and the challenge of taming the wild theremin.

Posted: 5/26/2013 11:30:22 AM

From: Canada

Joined: 8/1/2008

With some singers, the opening few minutes of a performance can be rough but as they progress the voice apparatus warms up, the artist relaxes, and the singing gets better. By the end of the concert they're FLYING!


From what I have observed, with the theremin it's the opposite. Playing often starts out better than it ends up. Instead of improving over the span of the performance, things increasingly fall apart. This may not be the case with everybody, but for those who do experience this I believe it all has to do with the accumulation of tension.


Singers accumulate a lot of tension over the span of a concert but they can use it to deliver a better and more effective performance. The adrenaline is like fuel. Properly directed it can boost on-stage confidence, let you sail effortlessly through difficult passages, add a couple of semitones to the top of your range, and give you the energy to endure a presentation that may go on for hours. The curtain goes up for Wagner's opera DIE MEISTERSINGER at 7:00 pm and comes down shortly after midnight. It's the musical equivalent of running a marathon.


With the theremin, we have to be right on from the very beginning. Performances usually don't last more than a few minutes, so there's no "warm up" and no time to hit your stride. You gotta knock 'em dead right out of the gate.


One of the great stumbling blocks for thereminists is that FIRST NOTE. If you don't use a pitch preview and you screw up your entrance, you won't recover. You may forge bravely on but the first impression will endure. Curiously, with the theremin, people can really enjoy what you do and applaud enthusiastically, but still think the performance was bad. That's the "novelty effect".


As our performance progresses, unless we are highly skilled and seasoned thereminists, accuracy tends to diminish. With each "oops" we naturally try to ensure that it won't happen again by throwing a little more energy into what we are doing but that only makes things worse. For singers and players of traditional instruments there are plenty of ways for that extra energy to express itself and improve a performance - not so with the theremin. Control is so precise and so concentrated that energy boosts that might help other performers have nowhere to go, so the energy accumulates. There is simply nowhere to channel it, so it backs up, overflows, and causes a nervous cascade of embarrassing bloopers. 


So wuddayado?


I believe the key to it all is DETACHMENT. It is something I think most of us realize intuitively when we play the theremin and that is why we tend to look as if we are in a trance. The harder you try, the greater the likelihood you will fail. You must shut everything out, including your audience, your desire to impress and your fear of failure, and float effortlessly like a butterfly on the warm air of a summer afternoon. 


There was a famous rabbi (can't remember which one) who said, "The only way I know I have really and truly prayed is if I discover, when I open my eyes, that the ground at my feet is wet with my own tears."





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