The theremin was invented in 1919 by a Russian physicist named Lev Termen (in the United States his name was Leon Theremin). Today, this marvelous instrument is once again in the musical spotlight.
Besides looking like no other instrument, the theremin is unique in that it is played without being touched.
Two antennas protrude from the theremin – one controlling pitch, and the other controlling volume. As a hand approaches the vertical antenna, the pitch gets higher. Approaching the horizontal antenna makes the volume softer. Because there is no physical contact with the instrument, playing the theremin in a precise melodic way requires practiced skill and keen attention to pitch.
In the early 1920’s, Leon Theremin came to the United States to promote his invention. He was given a studio to work in, and he trained several musicians to help bring the theremin into the public eye. Then, in 1938, Leon Theremin was taken back to the Soviet Union by force, leaving behind his studio, friends, business, and his wife. After a stay in a prison camp, Leon Theremin reportedly worked for the KGB designing among other things, the “bug” and methods for cleaning up noisy audio recordings.
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