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(thĕr`əmən), one of the earliest electronic musical instruments, invented (1920) in the Soviet Union and named for its creator, Leon ThereminTheremin, Leon
, 1896–1993, Russian engineer and inventor, b. St. Petersburg as Lev Sergeyevich Termen. He studied and worked in his native city, attending its university and conservatory and directing a lab at one of its technical institutes, where he invented the
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. A forerunner of the synthesizer, it consists of a wooden box fitted with two radio-frequency oscillators and two metal antennas, a vertical rod on the instrument's right and a horizontal ring on its left. The player moves the hands in the air around the antennas without touching them, creating changes the antennas' electromagnetic fields. The right hand controls the pitch, the left hand, the volume. The sine-wave tones that are produced are then amplified and fed into a loudspeaker.

The theremin's sound has been described as like that of a violin but more spooky and otherworldly. While some classical composers have written for the instrument, e.g., Henry CowellCowell, Henry Dixon
, 1897–1965, American composer and pianist, b. Menlo Park, Calif., largely self-educated, studied musicology in Berlin (1931–32). Cowell experimented with new musical resources; in his piano compositions he introduced the tone cluster, played with
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 and Edgard VarèseVarèse, Edgard
, 1883–1965, French-American composer. In Paris he first studied mathematics and science but became more interested in music. He then studied composition with Roussel and D'Indy at the Schola Cantorum and with Widor at the Conservatory.
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, it has been used more frequently in film soundtracks—where its eerie, swooping tones can create an atmosphere of unease or strangeness—and by such rock groups as The Beach Boys, Led Zeppelin, and Radiohead.


See S. M. Martin, dir., Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey (DVD, 1995, rereleased 2001).



(etherophone), an electrophonic musical instrument, invented in 1921 by the Soviet engineer L. S. Termen. In order to produce a musical tone, the theremin makes use of audio-frequency electrical oscillations produced by a vacuum-tube generator; the oscillations are amplified and then converted into sound by a loudspeaker. An upright, metal rod attached to a metal arc is used to change the frequency and amplitude of the oscillations generated (the pitch and loudness of the sound); the rod and arc serve as the generator’s oscillatory system. The performer controls the theremin by changing the position of the palms of his hands: the hand near the rod controls the pitch, and the hand near the arc controls loudness. The theremin can be made to sound like a violin, cello, flute, or other musical instrument; the timbre of the sound is determined by the operating mode of the generator.

References in periodicals archive ?
Both concerts in Cyprus will include performances of the Concerto for Theremin and Orchestra by Cyprus-born composer Anis Fuleihan and Victor Herbiet's Sirenum Scopuli.
The theremin is his finest achievement, a small wooden box with two metal antennas that, when a practiced musician holds his or her hands in near proximity, can produce a steady electric murmur: DZEEEEOOOoo.
EARLY DAY ELECTRONICA: Besides drum machines and synthesisers, one of the instruments Williams uses is the theremin - a vintage electronic music device which responds to the movement of a musician's hands
On a table near the piano sat a theremin, an electronic instrument invented by Russian physicist Leon Theremin back in the twenties.
He can play a musical instrument without touching it - a theremin, famously used in The Beach Boys' Good Vibrations and science fiction movie The Day The Earth Stood Still.
Series books examine instruments from the banjo and the theremin to the guitar in Baroque Mexico, and people from John Philip Sousa, Marian McPartland, Fritz Reiner, Fred Waring, Charles Ives, and Charles Seeger to Bill Monroe, Ralph Stanley, Hazel Dickens, Bob Wills, Jimmie Rodgers, Fiddlin' John Carson, Aunt Molly Jackson, Robert Johnson, Robert Winslow Gordon, Sarah Gertrude Knott, Tito Puente, and Elvis.
And, Hamilton's percolating bass lines magically meshed with Perry's trippy talk box and Theremin effects on "Sweet Emotion.
Particularly memorable is the theremin solo in the 1970 hit "Whole Lotta Love," which pits Paynes and Conley against each other in a mesmerizing on-stage duel that conjures some of the most theatrical moments of the Jimmy Page and Robert Plant era.
Holding it all together is a superb score by Louis Febre that exactly captures the melodramatic mystery of the best sci-fi scores--notably those by Bernard Herrmann--right down to the judicious use of a quivering Theremin.
Quick fade to a Rasputin-like figure swathed in red light (reminiscent of Yves Bonnefoy's "The place of the dead/ May be a fold in red cloth"), who seems to be playing a primitive electronic organ or Theremin, the Russian inventor of which was himself dealt a double fate or foil as both capitalist inventor and Soviet undercover agent.
As James Wierzbicki observes, the introduction of the theremin into the science fiction soundscape "was a landmark event in the history of science fiction film" (22).
Melding hip-hop, funk, and jazz, augmented by oddball timbres like sitar and theremin, Sean Lee's Ping Pong Orchestra shakes the dust off the tinsel with A Very Ping Pong Christmas.