I wound up at a Simon Shaheen (oud/violin) concert with his ensemble and singer. My knowledge of Arabic music is very limited but there were some very beautiful melodies in the slower pieces that I thought might be approachable for theremin. Not to try to do them exactly (the ornaments and the microtonal system would make it very hard to even think of doing authentically... I think...) but maybe adaptations of some sort.
Peter, I'm guessing you've been down this road. Any thoughts? Any repertoire suggestions from this rich world I know so little about?
Yes, I have had a good deal of experience with Arabic, Middle Eastern and Persian music. I have had even more experience with the classical music of India and studied for a time in the mid 1960's with the late Ravi Shankar. I can tell you with considerable authority, the theremin does not lend itself at all to oriental music. Don't waste your time even trying. It seems like the theremin should be ideal, but for many reasons it is not. In the past, I have written quite a bit about exactly WHY the theremin is unsuited to this type of music, but I won't bore you with reposts. If you are really interested, let me know and I'll email you privately.
The Haken continuum, on the other hand, adapts beautifully to these idioms and Indian composer Allarakka Rahman has done some very interesting and effective experiments using the continuum as an electronic banshri (Indian flute).
The following is beautifully done, up until the old Bollywood crooner with the bad hairpiece comes in! Ugh!
No, I do remember the Indian music discussion but I thought perhaps the Arabic and Middle Eastern music could possibly be more approachable than Indian which I could tell right away is a bad idea... So you think this idea is equally bad as trying to play Indian music?
I didn't feel that way listening as I often do with Indian music when I think "I love it but it sounds totally impossible for me to even attempt..."
And yeah, the Continuum is a whole other thing... The possibilities.... (And I have seen that video)
As Pamelia K. once reminded me in a discussion about classical Indian music and the theremin, "Just because YOU can't do it, doesn't mean it can't be done!"
She had a point.
Try arranging some Arabic music for theremin and see how it turns out. It could end up being the hottest theremin trend in Chelsea (even if it bombs in Cairo).