What prompted you to play theremin?
I saw the Steven Martin documentary in 2000 and was immediately intrigued by the instrument. It wasn’t until 2005, though, that I learned theremins were still being manufactured. I read more information about the theremin and decided that I had to learn how to play one, that it would be a challenge… and in the summer of 2006 I bought my first theremin, a Moog Etherwave.
What were your first feelings when you heard the sounds of theremin and where did it happen?
That’s a tough question. When I first heard the sounds of the theremin, I had no idea what a theremin was. I saw quite a few old sci-fi movies on TV when I was young, and I just associated the eerie “woo-ooooooo” sound with those movies. I did wonder how those sounds were made, but because I was growing up in the 1970s, I just assumed they were made with some kind of synthesizer keyboard.
What is your musical philosophy and what place it occupies a theremin?
Music is one of the things that makes life worth living — I can’t imagine a world without music. Music runs through my head all day long. I believe the theremin is the most expressive instrument besides the human voice. It’s intuitive but challenging… it requires dedication and discipline… since the theremin cannot simply be played mechanically, those who play it have to feel music in their souls.
Prospects for theremin and its place in modern music space – how you see them? For what qualities you value this tool?
I appreciate those who can truly play classical theremin at a virtuoso level, and I have learned to play several classic melodies myself. However, in recent years I’ve been exploring the place of theremin in the genres of jazz and electric blues improvisation in a couple of the bands with whom I play, and it’s been quite successful.
That said, I’m hoping for a day when more people in the audience will listen to and appreciate the notes I play in a solo, and fewer of them will stand there fascinated and wonder how the theremin works. Nobody ever asks the guitar player how he’s able to make music by dragging a triangular piece of plastic across six metal strings — they just appreciate his musical talent. I hope the theremin gets to that point someday as well.
Which manufacturer of theremin do you prefer?
I own four theremins, and by far my favorite is my Moog Etherwave Standard that was tuned and upgraded by Thierry Frenkel this summer.
What you can recommend for beginners thereminists, or those who are just going to start their way of thereminist?
Listen to yourself. Learn to tune your instrument to yourself and to the room. Stand still, but keep your fingers free and nimble. Position the speaker close to your head. As tempting as it may be to crank up the reverb in your amplifier when you first start playing, you’ll ultimately develop a better pitch sense by using a clean tone. Watch videos of professional thereminists for ideas, but don’t be afraid to develop your own unique fingering style. Above all, be patient, because becoming a good theremin player takes time, effort, and devotion.