Thereminvox – music from air

Thereminvox – music from air

In 2020 one of the most unusual electro-musical instruments, the thereminvox will mark its 100th year. The American musicians say that by the instrument it is better to play Halloween as music born with the help of thereminvox they consider unearthly and terrible.

The history of occurrence of the instrument began that in 1919 in the Physics-technical institute a young expert in radio engineering Lev Sergeyevich Termen was invited to work. The new employee was set with a task in view of measurement of dielectric constant of gases at various pressure and temperatures. In addition to standard analogue indications of pointers, Lev thought up other way, having developed a whistle which would change the tone of sound depending on density.

During experiences the physician casually found out that when his hand was in the field of the aerial, the whistle sound changed, that is the new sound arose at movement of hand of the person. To pick up new melodies did not make for Termen the big work as since his childhood he was fond of music. And here in November, 1920 Lev called all to his laboratory and gave the first concert.

In 1922 improved thereminvox was shown to Vladimir Ilyich Lenin who liked to observe new inventions personally. In the instruction on how to play a novelty there was only one phrase: «Performance by the electric instrument should be made by free movements of fingers in air, to similarly conductor’s gestures, in distance from the instrument». At the end of demonstration of the instrument Lenin himself could play on thereminvox Glinka’s “Lark”.

The new tool so was pleasant that, despite hard times, Lev was provided with means for invention improvement.

In 1927 Termen received the invitation to the international musical exhibition in Frankfurt on the Main. The report of Termen and demonstration of his inventions used tremendous success and brought to him the world popularity.

A year later Termen moved to the USA where in New York gave a concert for Rachmaninoff and Toscanini. In 1928 he patented theremin in the United States and begun work on his industrial production.

Sales did not go well, partially because of Great depression, but in many respects because the playing was afraid of shrill sounds which were distributed when movements of hands of the executor became chaotic.

In 1938 the inventor returned to Moscow where since 1940 worked in the closed design office. Lev Sergeyevich created new musical instruments till 1967, but any of his inventions did not received such glory, as theremin.

And today on it musicians execute both classical, and variety products. Also the tool is used for creation of various sound effects at scoring of films, in theatrical performances and circus programs.
Now one of the best executors playing the theremin is the great-grandson of the inventor Peter Theremin.