Eric Ross began playing the Theremin in 1975, and has performed on radio, film and TV. He’s written an Overture for 14 Theremins playing simultaneously, and gave the world premiere of Percy Grainger’s Free Music No.1 in New York City in 1997. Since 1976, with his wife, Mary Ross, he’s presented multimedia performances with video, music, dance, film and computer art. He’s also played with blues legends Champion Jack Dupree, Lonnie Brooks, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee. In 2007, he was guest artist on the No.1 Best-Selling CD album in Japan, Aqi Fzono’s”Cosmology”.For more information on my work,
Check the following sites: — www. ericross. info
In 1991, I met and played for Lev Theremin in New York. It was during the making of Steven Martin’s award-winning movie, Theremin-Electronic Odyssey of Leon Theremin.
I was filmed, setting up and playing my instrument for Professor Theremin. At one point, I played through my wah-wah pedal. He hadn’t heard that before. He asked to try it himself and used it to good effect on a little melody that he played. He spoke to me in English and told me he planned to build a polyphonic theremin.
In 1993, I met inventor Robert Moog at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. I played one of his theremins in a concert there. Robert Moog, the inventor or the analog synthesizer, started and ended his career making theremins.
He said that his synthesizers were inspired by Lev Theremin’s designs, which were both simple and elegant.
I got to know Bob better at a week long Theremin Festival in Maine in 1997.
There I played his MIDI Ethervox theremin, which was still in development at that time.
After the concert, Bob said the music and use of electronics was beautiful. Coming from him, it meant a lot. I’ve been inspired by these people to continue using the theremin as a voice in my own compositions. I’ve used it in all my major compositions since the ’80s and plan to continue to do so.
What prompted you to play theremin?
I started playing the theremin around 1976 when I had one assembled from a kit. I realized it was difficult to play but with time and a lot of work, I was able to produce music with it In 1982 I used it on my first solo album, Songs for Synthesized Soprano. I put it through a Moog Synth, guitar effects boxes, fuzz, wah, ring modulator, full wave rectifier, and other effects. The theremin blended into the mix well and gave it a special energy and atmosphere .The theremin tracks blended into the mix well and gave it a special energy and atmosphere. There were jazz, classical, rock, avant, non-western and other elements in each song as well. The album was released on Doria Records, a NYC jazz label. It helped get me started professionally. I think the theremin was at least in part responsible for the album’s success. At that time, the Theremin was quite rare in new music recordings. A number of people and musicians picked up on it including Pierre Boulez, John McLaughlin, BB King, Clara Rockmore, among others. Its since become a classic vinyl and a collector’s item.
What were your first feelings when you heard the sounds of theremin and where did it happen
From 1975-81, I was involved in classic analog electronic music studios in New York with the Moog Synthesizer. The Theremin came about as a logical extension of that interest in electronics. From the first, I was excited by the potential of the Theremin as a spacially controlled instrument
What is your musical philosophy and what place it occupies a theremin?
I felt that music allowed me to be creative, expressive, put out a positive energy into the world and reach other people. In each of my compositions I like to play something that’s never been heard before. The pieces that I perform are a combination of both written and improvised music. I have specific objectives thematically that musically define each piece. I like spontaneous composition, organization, arrangement, editing and performance. There is an element of risk involved in concert so I have to be creative and adaptable at every moment. To do that consistently demands a certain level of virtuosity. In performance it can create a sense of involvement and excitement for the audience I have a set of musical guidelines for myself. These include:
1. the single most important element in a performance is
intensity, in expression, speed, dynamics, phrasing, etc.
2. Energy, energy, always more energy
3. Play something you’ve never heard before.
4. Display and extend all your playing techniques, use all your colors,
timbres, and effects. Use the principles of unity and variety. >
5. Play with fire, speed and accuracy. Jump in the stream of sixteenth
notes. Faster overall thought, quickness, deftness, grace and expression.
6. There is no subsitute for certainty. Be precise.
7. Careful use of resolution notes.
8. Think of “The Disappeared” , and be more expressive. Play with
conviction, as if it’s the last time you’ll ever play.
9. Hit the central note in the mix to energize the blend. Hit notes “out of
the blue,” “self-destruct” type notes to stun myself and audience. Jazz is
spontaneous composition, organization, arrangement, editing and performance.
What you play at any moment is a measure of yourself as an artist.
10. Maintain a sense of the elements of drama in performance, attitude, and
feeling , total concentration/relaxation from the first note to the last.
11. Get to the next level of transcendence. Notes form the capacity
to please or delight. healing powers, the concept of “Swara” meaning
self-illuminating or self-shining.
12. Generate light beyond heat.
Prospects for theremin and its place in modern music space – how you see them?
For what qualities you value this tool
The Thereminvox is ideally suited to lead music into the future.
The theremin is a very human instrument, it’s played by moving one’s hand in the air around it, it’s not computer controlled or programmable, it’s tactile appeal is very sensual.Digital technology, including synthesizers, samplers and computer software has allowed the theremin to be placed in a modern context and perspective.
The theremin appears to be “new”
again and artists can approach with fresh ideas and realize it can be used distinctivelyin new compositions
I have a MIDI box for one of my theremins and I can control banks of synthesizers. So in a way, Professor Theremin’s dream of a polyphonic Theremin has been realized. The Thereminvox is ideally suited to lead music into the future. The theremin is a very human instrument, it’s played by moving one’s hand in the air around it, it’s not computer controlled or programmable, it’s tactile appeal is very sensual.
Which manufacturer of theremin do you prefer?
Right now , I’m using two Moog Etherwave Theremins and two Custom digital Theremins. I use a MIDI box for one and separate efx loops for the others. I think the Moogs are fine but I’ve also played some other models which are also very nice.