What’s That Sound? It’s a Theremin!

You're watching an old scary movie late at night and your hear a strange sound in the movie's soundtrack. How to describe it? Eerie, ethereal, down right spooky. It has almost a vocal quality. You think you may have heard it before, because it reminds you of the Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations". What in the world is it? It's the theremin, of course! 

The Boston Public Library invites you to hear this instrument live at the Friday, October 4, 2019 concert by BMOP. They've called this concert "The Roaring Twenties" because not only does it feature works written for the theremin (invented in the 1920s), but it features three other works from the late 1920s that really capture the mood of that time. There are some passes available for this concert and the other concerts in this orchestra's season through our Museum Passes program. The passes admit up to four people free of charge. 

Invented in 1928, the theremin is an early electronic instrument that is played without even touching it. Performers use their hands and move them in the electromagnetic fields created by the instrument in order to control the pitch and the volume of the music it produces. Many people will associate it with spooky music from movies and maybe with some music made by popular musical groups of the 20th century, but serious composers have written music for it ever since it was invented. Here is a short piece written in 1928 by Joseph Schillenger for theremin and piano. 

More works for theremin by Joseph Schillinger and other composers can be heard on the recording, "Music from the Ether," performed by Lydia Kavina on the theremin. This is available online to all who have a valid Boston Public Library card.

Music from the Ether: Original Works for Theremin

Other Resources

Theremin: Ether Music and Espionage A biography of the inventor and Soviet spy, Leon Theremin (aka Lev Sergeyevich Termen).

Us Conductors: In Which I Seek the Heart of Clara Rockmore, My One True Love, Finest Theremin Player the World Will Ever Know : A Novel A fictional account of Leon Theremin's life.