The Theremin is the oldest electronic instrument there is, controlled by hand motions of the performer but without making any physical contact with the instrument. It was patented by its inventor Leon Theremin in 1928, and has had the misfortune to be typecast as an instrumental signature element in science fiction movie themes (remember Forbidden Planet?).

Theremins contain low power radio transmitters. The change in tone comes from the way the radio waves are absorbed or deflected by the hands of the performer before being detected and converted to audible sound. The instrument, under control of the right performer, can be an amazingly versatile and expressive instrument. Witness this, a performance by Theremin master Carolina Eyck from 2009 as she plays a Gabriel Fauré piece, Après un Rêve (“After a Dream”). To say that the piece is haunting begins with Fauré’s composition itself, but ends with Ms. Eyck’s mastery of this remarkable, yet little known, mainstay of sci-fi music.

Be sure to pause the music stream before listening to this piece.



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