For over sixteen years, Kip Rosser’s solo performances, staged productions, award-winning compositions and industry recognition on this difficult-to-master grandfather of all electronic instruments have earned him a reputation as one of the most accomplished thereminists in the country. While working as a graphic artist, playwright and director for the stage, Kip Rosser crossed paths with this grandfather of electronic instruments in 1996. He purchased a kit and built his first theremin. What began as a curiosity soon became a lifelong passion. Formally trained in theatre, Rosser typically moves beyond a standard recital format, making for a unique event that combines music ranging from classical to jazz to popular with stories, performance art, and audience participation, continually pushing the boundaries of what the theremin can play and do. His programs for special events are tailored specifically to suit occasion and client musical preferences. In an academic setting, the programs are always age appropriate and the presentation specific to the class subject. Rosser is also interested in working with anyone seeking to incorporate a theremin into their music, film scores or other projects.
I began playing after I found an ad for a kit and built the instrument. I somehow felt that I would have a facility with it. From the very first moment I began to play, I knew I would dedicate myself to playing. I’m just as amazed by what a theremin can do right now as I was when I made a sound for the first time. Everything fascinated me – from the sound to the challenge of working on a new piece, to the opportunity of bringing the theremin and its music to as many people as I can. What were your first feelings when you heard the sounds of theremin and where did it happen? I’m unable to recall when I first heard a theremin. I’m also unable to recall a time when I didn’t know what one was. I believe that as a child I must have seen Samuel J. Hoffman playing “Someday My Prince Will Come” on the Mickey Mouse Club. However, I know that I always found the sound of a theremin extremely compelling when hearing the theremin as a teenager insongs like “Electricity” (by Captain Beefheart, with Hoffman playing theremin), Good Vibrations (even though they used the Tannerin), and the music of Lothar and the Hand People. What is your musical philosophy and what place it occupies a theremin? Music is one of the only things that human beings got right. Our ability to consciously create and organize sound, to create musical instruments, and to use this medium as a means of expression is one of humanity’s siginificant achievements. Music is non-fattening, non-toxic, non-polluting. It is a mode of expression, that, while the product of intellect, can actually bypass or transcend all intellectual understanding and directly reach us on visceral, emotional and spiritual levels. It’s only side effect is that it can be addictive, but even then, it’s a sublime addiction that never harms us. As music relates to the theremin, there is room for everything. We should all embrace everything from a theremin playing traditional notated music (all genres) to ambient to experimental to the most challenging creative noise. All other instruments are being used in this fashion.
Prospects for theremin and its place in modern music space – how you see them? For what qualities you value this tool? The possibilities are infinite, limited only if we limit our imaginations.
Which manufacturer of theremin do you prefer? I use different theremins for different reasons. I own a Moog Strandard Etherwave, a Moog Etherwave Pro, a Kees Theremin, a Burns B3 Deluxe, a PAIA Theremax (this is my very first theremin, built from the kit) and more
What you can recommend for beginners thereminists, or those who are just going tostart their way of thereminist?
Reject the notion, still perpetuated today, that the theremin is the most difficult instrument in the world to play. Every instrument ever invented is difficult at first. Practice. Practice a lot. Watch every theremin player you can. Listen to every theremin player that you can. Try every type of music and sound until you find what moves you the most. Practice. Practice a lot. Look at everyone’s techniques and find what works for you. And practice.