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The Art Of The Theremin
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Product Description

In 1927, two remarkable people arrived in the United States after lengthy and successful tours of Europe: Lev Sergeivitch Termen (anglicized to Leon Theremin) and Clara Rockmore (whose maiden name was Clara Reisenberg). Theremin was a young Russian physicist who was demonstrating a new musical instrument that he invented. The instrument was played by the motion of the musician's hands in the space surrounding the instrument. Clara Rockmore, a professional violinist from the age of 9, became aware of the musical potential of Theremin's invention. She spent several years collaborating with Theremin during which time he developed his invention into a sensitive, wide-range musical instrument. Clara subsequently embarked on a performance career that encompassed well over a hundred concerts, including appearances with major symphony orchestras, and set the definitive standard for theremin performance technique.

To play the theremin, the performer stands in front of the instrument, a little left of center. The feet are spread slightly to keep the body as motionless as possible. To determine the pitch of the instrument's tone, the player varies the distance between her right hand and the pitch antenna. When the instrument is properly tuned, the pitch goes from lower than two octaves below middle C when the player's right hand is back at her shoulder, to approximately 2 1/2 octaves above middle C when the player's hand barely touches the pitch antenna. To determine the loudness of the instrument's tone, the player varies the distance between her left hand and the middle of the volume antenna. Maximum loudness occurs when the hand is removed from the antenna; complete silence occurs when the hand is an inch or so from the loop.

The thereminist must move her hands with incredible precision as well as speed if she wishes to play distinct notes with correct intonation. Ms. Rockmore actually uses fingering patterns to play the most rapid passages. For instance, if she were to play an upward arpeggio, she would start on the lowest note with right hand tilted back and fingers withdrawn. To play the next note she would abruptly move her hand forward from the wrist, while keeping her right arm motionless. The third note would be played by rapidly extending the little finger, and the fourth note by extending one or two more fingers while simultaneously turning the wrist sideways to bring the newly-extended fingers nearer to the pitch antenna. She would then continue the arpeggio by moving her whole arm closer to the pitch antenna while drawing her hand and fingers back, then repeating the above-described succession of movements. At the same time, she may articulate each individual pitch by rapidly shooting the fingers of her left hand into the volume antenna loop, then withdrawing them, to silence the tone during the very short periods of time that her right hand moves from one pitch to another. No other theremin player has ever mastered this difficult and intricate technique for playing rapid successions of precise pitches - "aerial fingering" as one reviewer termed it.

Customer Reviews:

  • Review of The Art of the Theremin by Clara Rockmore
    This CD of "The Art of the Theremin" by Clara Rockmore, exceeds my expectations of what I hoped to hear. It is pure ethereal sound. Clara Rockmore allows her soul to play an instrument that is soothing and better than a visit to a spa....more info
  • Art Of The Theremin
    This recording is the definitive standard by which all other theremin recordings will be judged.
    To put it succinctly, it is marvelous!
    Howard Mossman
    Swarthmore, Pa....more info

    A remarkable disc featuring the eerie and hypnotizing oscillations of the world's first electronic instrument. Stunning!...more info
  • Elegance and precision
    The theramin is, without question, the most difficult instrument in the world to play. Consider: since its invention in 1928 and commercial release in the early 1930s, only one musician - Clara Rockmore - has been able to produce any real music on it. Her performances are spellbinding and, if one sometimes years for, say, a whole sonata or something more substantial than encore pieces, think of how difficult it is to play ANYTHING on this instrument and be glad that we at least have this much.

    A one-of-a-kind disc of a one-of-a-kind performer. If you like the samples you can hear on this site. by all means buy it....more info
  • beyond halloween
    I love theramin music but there are very few CDs featuring this amazing but hard to play instrument. This CD does not dissappoint. The theremin sounds much like a human voice, but with a slightly creepy edge. I will be playing this CD for many years to come. ...more info
  • Mysterious, magical, and a little bit maudlin
    I recently went through a theremin phase after seeing the documetary "Theremin: An Electronic Oddysey" which featured Clara Rockmore prominently. That led me to buy this recording, which seems to be the traditional standard of classical theremin artistry. The story around the instrument is even more bizzare than the music it makes: spooky Cold-War intrigue, sudden disappearances in New York and the USSR, spy gadgets, dead men found alive, old friends reuniting after decades of separation and obscurity... it all fits the eerie ethos of the music. So to really "get" the instrument, you need to know the story behind it. That's the maudlin part.

    While the rest of my family violently disagrees, this is indeed lovely music. A careful listening to Mrs. Rockmore's technique reveals, I think, that she's fascinatingly far beyond waving her hands up and down in front of antennas. She makes glissandos and runs happen with discrete pitches in a way that is hard for me to picture on an instrument that can generate any pitch, and every pitch in between. She developed a way to "finger" an instrument you don't touch. That's why it's magical.

    A note on the recording: the timbre of the theremin seems to land in a resonant frequency range on most systems/speakers on which I have listened to this recording, leading to the solo instrument badly overbalancing the piano accompaniment.

    PS: I have given on someday owning a theremin. Phase over. ...more info
  • a family member's perspective
    As a family member, I will not write a review of this album but rather provide a reflection upon Clara and her sister the pianist Nadia Reisenberg who perform together on this album. Even as a young kid sitting in Clara's Manhattan living room while the two sisters practiced these and other pieces, I was aware of the love between them that infuses every measure of what you hear. Clara and Nadia were musically inseparable. With the perennial Russian teas and cakes adding an aromatic backdrop, the ethereal sounds created a sensory-scape that could only be forged through long lives of shared love, respect and understanding between two people. This album represents much more than two virtuosi at the peak of their careers. This album is about connection between two people and the music they love, and between one another. Perhaps, this is a less known reason why people respond so emotionally to this album. I have witnessed how the music and the emotions that helped to create it are one and the same. Enjoy....more info