Saturday, February 11, 2006

A Brief History of Electronica

Brian chronicles every musical instrument it can find that was invented between 1870 and 1990. Amidst the list is the famous theremin, invented in Russia in 1917 and pictured above:
One problem with utilising the heterodyning effect for musical purposes was that as the body came near the vacuum tubes the capacitance of the body caused variations in frequency. Leon Termen realised that[,] rather than being a problem, body capacitance could be used as a control mechanism for an instrument and finally freeing the performer from the keyboard and fixed intonation.

Termen's first machine, built in the [Russia] in 1917[,] was christened the "Theremin" (after himself) or the "Aetherophone" (sound from the 'ether') and was the first instrument to exploit the heterodyning principle. The original Theremin used a foot pedal to control the volume and a switch mechanism to alter the pitch. This prototype evolved into a production model Theremin in 1920[—]this was a unique design, resembling a gramaphone cabinet on 4 legs with a protruding metal antenae and a metal loop. The instrument was played by moving the hands around the metal loop for volume and around the ante[n]nae for pitch. The output was a monophonic continuous tone modulated by the performer. The timbre of the instrument was fixed and resembled a violin string sound.
Link (via BoingBoing). It also resembles the ooo-eee-ooo screech found in horror movies and "Good Vibrations." I don't know where but she sends me there.

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Image credits: "Lev Sergeivitch Termen playing the 'Theremin,'" courtesy, borrowed for news-reporting and comment purposes.


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