One of the coolest devices I’ve performed this yr requires a small historical past lesson: In 1949, in a small residence in Queens, New York, a 14-year-old boy named Robert Moog put collectively his first-ever theremin. He had been obsessive about the antenna-controlled digital instrument, a touchless electromagnetic system that had been invented by chance simply 20 years earlier in a Soviet laboratory. The theremin, which now squeals to us with the nostalgic sounds of the house age, provided the never-heard sounds of the longer term for that younger boy.
By 1953, Moog had developed his personal improved model of the theremin, promoting them as kits by mail order as he completed faculty. After graduating, Moog leaned into his love of obscure digital sounds and the means of making them, utilizing the information he gained first at Queens College, then Columbia University and Cornell—the place he earned a grasp’s in electrical engineering and a PhD in engineering physics—to create a few of the most iconic synthesizers and keyboards of our age. But individuals by no means actually bought over his theremins.
From loopy Tiny Desk Concerts to classroom science demonstrations, the world’s first digital instrument, one that you simply don’t contact however merely manipulate utilizing your palms inside an invisible electromagnetic area, has a means of thrilling everybody who comes upon it, and Moog made probably the most well-known mannequin in historical past.
Riding the Etherwave
After almost 100 years since its invention and 60 years of Moog’s personal model, we now have the brand-new Etherwave Theremin, a contemporary re-creation of the kits Moog would have made. It’s nonetheless the instrument that garners probably the most consideration in my life. “You have a Theremin!?!?” has develop into the common exclamation in my yard studio over the previous six months since I obtained it to check. “Rad!”
And so musicians and non, children and adults, have put their palms to the take a look at, transferring the left one up and down to govern quantity, the best to attempt to hit no matter pitch they’re trying—a feat that’s not as simple because it appears. As famed Theremin player Clara Rockmore put it, that is an instrument “you have to play with butterfly wings.” The lack of bodily suggestions could make it exhausting to dial in your excellent tones, so many individuals strive particular hand shapes to be extra exact.
Despite the overwhelming majority of the sounds popping out of the Etherwave in my studio being … lower than excellent … I can’t consider a tool that has introduced extra musical enthusiasm into my life this yr. The factor may as effectively be a smile machine, with people discovering hilarious and inventive noises as they surf the electromagnetic waves within the air. It even has an “easy mode”—you should use management voltage outputs on the synth to govern different, extra wieldy synths and sound modules.
Just as you’ve got virtually definitely heard one among these theremins beckoning aliens onscreen, you’ve undoubtedly heard these sounds taking you to outer house. When Moog, the corporate—nonetheless round and identified for making a few of the finest keyboards on the planet—units its thoughts to a brand new Theremin, you’re getting one of the best. And one of the best will value you about $750.