“Gordon is an unrepentant theremin enthusiast, the brains behind the successful Hands Off series of theremin events, which ranges from the world’s largest gathering of thereminists to landmark performances at the Royal Festival Hall as part of the Southbank Centre’s annual Ether festival. He is also a stalwart of White Label Music’s groundbreaking Sonic Weekends, a continuing experiment in guerrilla recording, having participated in every Sonic Weekend since they started.
Gordon records and performs under the nom de guerre Beat Frequency as, he explains, “The theremin is more than an electronic instrument, it is a cybernetic instrument both in the science fiction cyborg sense, and also the technical Norbert Wiener sense; the player being, electronically speaking, part of the instrument, and, lacking any tangible reference points, utterly dependant on an audio feedback loop. The beat frequency is at the heart of the theremin. My aim is to rediscover the theremin as an instrument of the third millennium, informed by the physics of the instrument and based on a fundamental understanding of psycho-acoustics rather than applying it to common practice music, which makes as much sense as a didgeridoo in a classical orchestra.”
His visceral sonic excursions are reminiscent of the early days of Industrial Music, and his fluid, evolving soundscapes have been likened to the music of Raymond Scott, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, Gyorgy Ligeti, Nurse With Wound and Throbbing Gristle. The third Beat Frequency album, The Invisible Horn, was released recently by White Label Music.
Gordon’s sessions will include a demonstration and discussion of the “Beat Frequency” method and the use of effects to process theremin audio as well as an opportunity to have “hands off” experience of playing a theremin.”
official resourse – https://www.facebook.com/BeatFrequency
THEREMIN TIMES QUESTION
So please, if you have anything that you would like to say publicly about Clara Rockmore, her creativity and her anniversary, – please write.
I can hear the skill and artistry in Clara Rockmore’s playing but it is not a style that I particularly care for, so I do not feel well qualified to comment on her creativity. Nonetheless I greatly respect the positive role she has played in the history of the theremin, and the many classical thereminists that she has inspired.
What prompted you to play theremin?
Curiosity at first. I encountered the theremin by chance while browsing the Internet and thought it could make an interesting hobby that would suit me well. When I first played it I realised very quickly that I was not well suited to playing melodically – having an untrained ear and no background in playing music other than a few piano lessons as a child. However I did see it as having thereputic value – I have myagic encephalomyelopathy, the symptoms of which include a fair amount of deep muscle pain. Playing the theremin requires and induces a combination of being physically relaxed and mentally focussed on the sound so that everything else recedes, a meditative state where the pain is there but far away, like a memory. It is a meditation and a relaxation, and, given the often aggressive nature of my music, a catharsis.
What were your first feelings when you heard the sounds of theremin and where did it happen?
The first time I heard a theremin was on the track Noises For The Leg on the album Keynsham by The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, and I did not like it at all! (At the time I did not know it was a theremin.) Much later I heard some theremin music that I liked (in the movie The Day The Earth Stood Still,) and it was only then that I realised that the awful sound the Bonzo Dogs were making was also a theremin – a bad theremin, badly played.
What is your musical philosophy and what place it occupies a theremin?
I feel that if a person is going to play conventional music, they should observe the conventions of that music, and for the theremin in particular this means playing in tune when the music requires pitch accuracy. It saddens me that many players seem to fall at this first hurdle. Conversely, if one is to play unconventional music, as I do, then one should devise one’s own conventions to replace those conventions one has chosen to disregard. I do not see this as restrictive, any more than the frame of a picture or the need for rhyme and scansion in most forms of poetry are limitations. Rather, these are spurs to creativity. I endeavour to create theremin music which is informed by the nature of the instrument, as the shape of a ship’s hull is informed by the physics of fluid dynamics, and which acknowldges that it is as much an instrument of electronic music as of classical music.
Prospects for theremin and its place in modern music space – how you see them? For what qualities you value this tool?
I have been very interested to see the appearance recently of hybrid devices, for example the Moog theremini, which combine elements of both the theremin and the synthesiser, and I hope very much that this is a trend that will continue and improve over time. I value the theremin for it’s unique voice, and it’s expressiveness and imprecision in a world where modern music is mechanically perfect, in the sense that timing and pitch can be made so precise as to become very cold and characterless.
Which manufacturer of theremin do you prefer?
Of the theremins I have tried, my first choice is the Moog etherwave standard, with Thierry Frenkel’s bass extension module.
What you can recommend for beginners thereminists, or those who are just going to start their way of thereminist?
Take advice from skilled thereminists, buy the best theremin you can afford, and be honest to yourself about your own strengths and weaknesses.