Theremin Star hYrtis and her theremin journey

In January 2020, we found out the name of the winner of the Theremin Star competition of theremin videos dedicated to the 100th anniversary of theremin . During the 2019th year, 100 videos from around the world took part in the competition. These were very different videos: different musical directions, amateur and professional videos, novice performers, and theremin performers with decades of experience. According to the results of the voting, 6 videos from Italy, France, Peru, and Great Britain became the finalists of the competition. The winner of the competition was a young thereminist from France, charming Hyrtis Gladys Hilot, she performing under the stage name hYrtis.

HYrtis is an artist working both in the field of visual arts, video art, and in the field of music; she is an active performer on theremin and music saw. A special prize for the winner of Theremin Star competition is a trip and performances at the anniversary festival of Thereminology in St. Petersburg.

Dear hYrtis, heartful congratulations on winning first prize in the inaugural Theremin Star competition! Many people sincerely supported you during the final vote’s 10-day marathon, thank you for your remarkable contribution and achievement in this year of the theremin’s centenary. Now, on behalf of Theremin Today, we are grateful to have the opportunity to interview you.
Are you glad? How do you feel?

I am very glad of course and I feel very grateful. The support I received was much bigger than I could believe. This support came from everywhere in the world. I just feel sincerely grateful.

It looks like your video was really the best product among theremin YouTube content in 2019. Your video is well though-out, it has a lot of energy, positivity and charm. I think that you have managed to convey to many people that the theremin is a pleasant and inspiring instrument. What do you think about this?

Thank you very much, the replies on this video are always so positive. I just did it for Valentine’s day last year, I didn’t think that this funny fantasy could bring me on this journey. I think these kind of productions made for a special day (“Halloween”, “Valentine’s day” etc…) in a very short format (generally one minute because of Instagram), is a way to bring more visibility to the theremin with fun and it provides a mix between many aspects of my activity: art, visual performance and music.

HYrtis, you are an interdisciplinary artist and have been successful in your previous projects, but the theremin is something new in your life, as I know, you got involved with the theremin a few years ago, and now you are a very young and very talented thereminist. What саn you say about your first steps with the theremin? Was it really hard? Did your family understand and support you in your very first steps with the theremin? Why did difficulties not stop you on your path?

The theremin came into my life three years ago when I wanted to bring something new to my concerts but one precise point convinced me to try the theremin. Somebody told me : “the musical saw is hard but the theremin is even more difficult”. It sounded like a challenge, exactly what I needed to make life more exciting. I wanted to know the sensations that a thereminist feels. At first, I found it hard but my faith was stronger than everything. I was sure that I could make my life better thanks to this magic instrument. I was able to play a melody one month after beginning (“Mon Coeur s’ouvre à ta voix” by Camille Saint-Saens). Well, I was in tune, so, it was really exciting to play… but at this time, I didn’t have any basis. I just had the faith and self-confidence of a beginner. I began alone, looking at theremin videos. 

Finally, nine months later, I went to a theremin academy. Here, I took very interesting lessons. Before the academy, I really thought that I’d got it. (When I see my first videos, I am forced to note that I was a bit naive. After the academy, I needed to work hard again, adapting my body to the right technique and the right position. Feeling comfortable with the new technique took me almost one year because my body needed to forget the previous autodidact technique. I felt very frustrated during this time. Sometimes, I thought : « it will be very hard to be able to play as well as I did earlier… » I had lost my comfort and my self-confidence. But… I still had faith.  So if I could give advice to beginners it would be: don’t wait many months before looking for a good theremin teacher. Now, even if I experience great moments onstage or on the internet, I always remain aware of the things I should improve. For example, when I see this “Cheek to cheek” video I did last year, with my critic’s eye, I would say I play differently now. Now, my left hand tends to be more expressive and, I hope, I will manage to get more and more expressivity with time. I practice very hard every day and the critiques and observations from other experienced thereminists are useful to find a way to increase my level. But of course, the public success is very motivating too. 

Do you have your personal theremin view or theremin conception? Do you love the theremin? Why do you love the theremin? 

Saying “I love the theremin” would be too weak. I live the theremin. I don’t explain it, I need it. There is a total connection between me and the instrument. That is why I love it. In addition to this physical, mental and spiritual connexion, I think, the theremin connects me to the world. Thanks to the concerts, I can share something with other people. Thanks to this sharing, I feel alive in THIS world. The art of the theremin became a way of life.

Saying “I love the theremin” would be too weak. I live the theremin. I don’t explain it, I need it

Do you think that theremin is a synth? Do you see the difference between synth and theremin?

I think the theremin and the synth are two different things. They are two electronic instruments but the practice of the theremin is much closer to the practice of singing or organic instruments (like strings) because the body needs to be much more implicated but it is just my own feeling.

Ok, now it will be questions just from the Beatles’ song, ”When I’m 64″. Will you still be a thereminist after 10 years? Where do you see you and your theremin in 10 years time? What about the music, the sounds, the instrument itself?

Of course, after ten years, I will still be a thereminist but with much more skills and expressivity. After ten years, I think, the theremin will be like a part of my body. And… as I hope… I see me playing in a lot of beautiful places (but it is the dream of every musician). About the sort of music, I think of very different things : always classical and jazz but I also think very strong of sacral music (which could be played in sacral places)

This September you will be performing for the Russian public in St Petersburg, and you will meet with Russian thereminists. How do you feel about this? Do you think that it can help you to understand the nature of theremin more deeply?

I admire a lot of thereminists in Russia so I think I will be impressed. Indeed, I think this journey will teach me a lot of very deep and important things about the theremin. I am new to the theremin world, so, it means a lot.

In this year we all continue to celebrate сеntenary of theremin which started in 2019. What do you think, in this context, about Lev Theremin and his theremin? What do you think about Clara and the relevance of her performing technique today?

I feel very honored. For the 100th anniversary of the theremin, I wished secretly to get the chance to do something which makes really sense. Taking part in the programme of the Thereminology Festival is something very important. And out of this context, this is important for my professional trajectory. On the theremin, I haven’t played outside France yet. Thanks to the support of everyone, my secret wish has been accomplished. Celebrating the instrument precisely in St Petersburg is really moving for me. I think of Lev Theremin and Clara Rockmore every day while I practice many hours a day. Thinking of them helps me to keep motivation, they are spiritual masters. I always introduce my concerts with a short presentation about them. What do I think about Lev Theremin? He is the man who invented the instrument of my life. I want more and more people to know him. I think Clara Rockmore continues to inspire the best thereminists today (and I believe, the theremin community is always growing up thanks to the magic work of the best thereminists today).

What do you want to wish to all thereminists for the next 100 years of the theremin?  

I would like to encourage them never to give up if they feel « the call ». I know, mastering the theremin takes years… maybe a lifetime. But they should never give up. Thinking more concretely, I would be so happy if a theremin like the E-pro could be built again (in a lighter version that makes travel easier and not so dangerous for the instrument). I know, this is just a dream but almost all the professional thereminists want it.



From the very beginning of Theremin Star, it was obvious that this competition is about theremin today. And that this competition is not only about the theremin performing arts.
 It would be more accurate to say that this is a competition about the perception of theremin in the modern world and about love and support in the world of theremin.
Therefore, it turned out to be very important for me that the winner in the year of the centennial of theremin was the performer from France, Gladys Hyrtis Hilot.
People love Hyrtis and they like what she does. She is mobile, warm, cheerful, sensual, full of life and energy and love.
Apparently these qualities are demand in the theremin today.
Hyrtis knows how to inspire, I know that her talk about 10,000 hours with theremin has impressed many thereminists. Hurtis knows how to see the goal and she is patient enough to achieve it. I am sure that the visit of Hyrtis to St. Petersburg in 2020 will be an inspiring event not only for her, but also for the Russian public and the Russian Theremin community.
It was interesting to me to ask some questions to the Theremin Star that lit up in the year of the theremin century, and I would really like the radiance of the new star to make the theremin world brighter and more optimistic.

Author: Masha Theremin
The granddaughter of Lev Theremin, the first theremin for Masha, he did when she was 3 years old. Co-organizer of Thereminology Festival in St.Petersburg and Moscow . Co-founder of the St. Petersburg Theremin Society. She writes a the biography book about Lev Theremin.

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