Thorwald Jorgensen (Netherland)

At the age of 14, Thorwald Jørgensen started his first percussion lessons with Peter Elberse (timpanist at the Dutch Philharmonic Orchestra). After finishing high school he went on to study classical percussion at the Utrecht and Tilburg Conservatory, where he studied with Werner Otten, Hans Zonderop, Johan Faber and Peter de Vries. He graduated with a Music Masters as a student of Arnold Marinissen. Taking up the theremin was a logical progression. This instrument also requires a skilled coordination of the left and right hand. Since the playing technique resembles that of a string instrument, Thorwald is currently being coached by Saskia Boon, former cellist with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. Having a busy concert schedule, Thorwald has performed as a chamber musician, soloist and orchestral thereminist in Europe, North America, Canada and Russia. A remarkable highlight was the Dutch premiere of the theremin concertino by Anis Fuleihan. Besides these concerts, Thorwald also performed for radio and television and played at several festivals, like Festival Classique (NL), Bach Festival (NL),Thereminology festival (RU), Without Touch (UK) and Music and Beyond (CA). He was also invited as a guest lecturer for the composition class at both the Amsterdam and Rotterdam Conservatory. Thorwald has managed to collect an expansive library of original music for the theremin from music libraries and private collections both in Holland and abroad. He has expanded this collection by adding music for string instruments and voice. Furthermore, he has arranged a couple of theremin concertino’s for symphonic wind band, so this music is no longer restricted to the accompaniment of a symphony orchestra. This mixed and varied repertoire serves as a demonstration of the fact that the theremin can be so much more than an instrument for dramatic effects in movies.


What prompted you to play theremin?

I started playing the Theremin as a substitute for the violin! As a percussion student at the conservatory I always played violin concerto’s on marimba (I was know as the Paganini of the marimba). In my final year of studying I decided that instead of playing this beautiful music on a marimba I should pick up the violin, so I did! After trying it once I immediately felt this was never going to work since it is very hard, if you already play an instrument on a professional level, to start a new instrument (especially one as difficult as the violin). After I gave up on my dream to be a «violinist» I was a bit down and on that point the Theremin came in to my life (although I always knew of its existence), the minute I heard Clara Rockmore play I knew this was the instrument for me and got obsessed with it. When I finaly got one a half year later, I already knew so much about the Theremin that I could immediately play music on it (although I hope my level of playing has grown since then!) and never stopped doing that.

What were your first feelings when you heard the sounds of theremin and where did it happen?

When I first heard the Theremin I had the luck to hear it being played by the great Clara Rockmore. If I heard it being played by anyone else I probably woudn’t have given the instrument a second thought! I felt the instrument was/is the most expressive I’ve ever heard and it suited my romantic idiom of making music! I can’t really remember where it happened but I’ve played the instrument for 3 years now (18/04/2011) I started in 2009.

What is your musical philosophy and what place it occupies a theremin?

My philosophy on music is that it doesn’t matter on which instrument you make music, for all I care one can do it on a violin, marimba, Theremin, piano or on a dustbin!
As long as people are passionate about it and make music on a high level with every fiber of their body I am sure it will apeal to people, especially in a live setting. Although I feel that
with an instrument as the Theremin you have to work twice as hard to be taken seriously.

Prospects for theremin and its place in modern music space — how you see them? For what qualities you value this tool?

I as a Theremininst of course see great prospects for the instrument, the problem is that no «big» composers are using the instrument and that there aren’t enough people who can actually play in an orchestral or ensemble setting (other than the obvious sound effects). In order for the instrument to be taken seriously there’s a need for more trained players. It also doesn’t help if on internet there are 98% clips/soundfiles/YouTubes that are really bad and only 2 procent that are worth watching or listening to!

Which manufacturer of theremin do you prefer?

This is a hard question because I don’t really have any other experience besides playing my MOOG Etherwave Standard. What I can say about it that it is a good instrument to
start with but for me it it isn’t a good instrument anymore. The problem here is that there are no other alternatives available wich you can buy! I feel that it is unwise to buy any
instrument online (if for instance a MOOG Pro becomes available) if I can’t try if first. Luckily I have a very good friend by the name of Thierry Frenkel who helped me make my Standard into a much better instrument than the one you can buy in your local Thereminstore. My range is bigger, especially in the lower registers (even lower notes than the doublebass). The instrument sounds much better than an unfixed one and overall it is much easier to play!

What you can recommend for beginners thereminists, or those who are just going to start their way of thereminist?

That’s an easy question! If one is serious about picking up the Theremin, he or she should get professional help: find a violin, viola or cello teacher who wants to give you lessons. He or she can learn you a lot about tuning, making your way from one note to the other, vibrato, expression, music theory, note reading etc. I myself am being coached by Saskia Boon, a cellist of the Dutch Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra which impoved my playing by a milestone. The Theremin is a very difficult instrument and deserves to be taken seriously, so if you start, take lessons!!! Just like anybody else does when they start playing the Clarinet, Piano, Drums etc ….