March 4, 2011 § 2 Comments
Picture this: a line of Japanese people sitting cross-legged. They’re holding matryoska dolls. They have stethoscopes on. The move their hands in unison, never touching the matryoskas. What are they doing? Playing music of course!
These matryoskas are called matryomins and are theremin instruments.If, up to now, you didn’t know what theremins are, that makes two of us.
Theremin is the original electronic music instrument, invented in 1928 by Russian engineer Leon Theremin. According to wikipedia “the controlling section usually consists of two metal antennas which sense the position of the player’s hands and control oscillators for frequency with one hand, and amplitude (volume) with the other, so it can be played without being touched”. Dmitri Shostakovich was one of the first composers to experiment with theremin and it was popular up to the ’60 in movie soundtracks (most notably Miklós Rózsa’s works), but fell out of fashion as more advanced electronic music instruments emerged. It still has a niche audience, and a DIY movement that goes along with it.