Theremin, the instrument that inspired Moog synthesizers and more

Posted on: September 24, 2019

“The ‘Play It Loud’ exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art spotlights the star instruments that made music electronic,” writes David A. Taylor in the September issue of Smithsonian magazine. “Tucked in the back is … the theremin … invented by Russian musician and scientist Lev Theremin.… The theremin’s unique and often eerie sounds [can be heard] in the Beach Boys’ ‘Good Vibrations’ and was featured in some of [Jimmy] Page’s out-there solos with Led Zeppelin…. On the cusp of its centennial, the weird boxy instrument is enjoying another revival. Hollywood paid tribute in First Man, where the theremin plays a central role in the score (Neil Armstrong was a fan of the instrument).… Theremin brought his invention to the U.S. in December 1927 for an extended tour. While he pursued a U.S. patent, he performed with the New York Philharmonic and at Carnegie Hall.…  When the Depression hit, nobody could afford the instruments. Then Theremin ran into tax trouble and fled back to the Soviet Union in 1938. [In] the 1950s … a new generation found its eerie, futuristic sound perfect for sci-fi soundtracks…. The theremin influenced the creation … of instruments … from Moog synthesizers and MIDI to, indirectly, wailing guitars.”

Posted September 24, 2019