So please, if you have anything that you would like to say publicly about Clara Rockmore, her creativity and her anniversary, – please write.
For me it’s simple: Clara Rockmore was the first person I saw playing the instrument, from which I knew very few before seeing her perform “The swan” in the opening scene from documentary “Theremin: an electronic odyssey”. Since I heard and saw her, I immediately understood what it was all about. I particularly became mesmerized by her playing technique, with all her notes were so perfectly accurate and so emotive at the same time. She also made me see that theremin is a real melodic instrument, perfectly able to perform classic repertory, as well as a flute or a violin, and not only made for doing weird stuff and spooky musical effects. In conclusion, speaking about Clara is speaking about being a real theremin virtuoso, I mean, someone able to play with emotion, and at the same time able to perform the most difficult passages with ease, as if all that incredible way of playing did just happen naturally.
What prompted you to play theremin?
It was back in 2008. I went to a friend of mine’s record store, and saw a DVD named “Theremin: an electronic odyssey”. My friend lent me the movie and I saw it at home and immediately got some kind of revelation. I mean, I already had heard about theremin; in fact, I already had years playing music, (classical flute, singer and composer, and rock n´roll guitar player) but theremin had always been for me some kind of musical legend. Nobody had been able to explain me what the famous instrument consisted in, and this documentary was for me the first opportunity I had to see it in action, know about all its history and understand it way of performing. What I found was an incredible and real melodic instrument, instead of the weird sound machine with antennas everyone told me it was. As soon as I saw Clara Rockmore perform, I decided that I needed to get my own theremin and learn anyhow to play it by myself.
What were your first feelings when you heard the sounds of theremin and where did it happen?
The first time I knew about the theremin was while listening to Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations”, and also Pixies’ “Velouria”.I kept in mind that curious sound, and began asking every musician around me what this instrument was about. The only information I could get then was that it was a device made of a box with an antenna, and that you should move around it in order to create that crazy sounds. That was all I knew about it, but I soon became able to recognize it each time I heard it in any recording. Later, I would discover that “Good vibrations” was actually recorded with a Tannerin, which is an “evolved” version of the theremin, much easier to get in tune. Anyway, the sound of the theremin attracted me much before first time I saw it and understand how it really worked.
What is your musical philosophy and what place it occupies a theremin?
I’ve been involved in music since I was 11 and explored many musical genres, since classical stuff, riot grrl rock and experimental. My way of making music at least is being organic and making the kind of music a moment or an instrument could bring me into. Normally I am very fond of catchy choruses, melody and a rock n’ roll playing style.
Theremin is the only instrument that allows me to fit in almost any musical style.
Prospects for theremin and its place in modern music space – how you see them? For what qualities you value this tool?
I see in this instrument much more musical possibilities than mostly people and musicians want to give it actually. For me, it’s a shame not to see it as a solo instrument rather than merely an eventual accompaniment effect. I see in it a pretty complete melodic instrument, such as a violin or a human voice, able to speak and tell us things. At same time, I see a one of a kind monophonic synthesizer, as well as a bunch of crazy analog effects device.
One of my dreams is to make music that could put the theremin in a place such as instead a voice, in any musical style, and making gala of its whole versatility.
Which manufacturer of theremin do you prefer?
Moog! Personally, I only have tested Moog’s Etherwave Standard (my first theremin and the same I use till today), Moog’s Theremini and also B3 theremin (a little and low cost model). I dream of performing with a Moog Etherwave Pro and also try some day a RCA Theremin…
Anyhow, I guess that Moog’s Etherwave Standard is the equivalent of Stratocaster for theremin players: versatile, portable, not too expensive for a first instrument, but still a serious and confiable option for a confirmed live performer.
What you can recommend for beginners thereminists, or those who are just going to start their way of thereminist?
What I would recommend to anybody about to start learning to play the theremin, is to take the instrument seriously, just as if they were about to begin to learn to play guitar or piano. That’s the most important way to learn how to make music with it. I also recommend to be very sensitive, to focus on the nature- theremin is a very organic interface- and to be quite imaginative. After all, the theremin is still, one hundred years after its creation, the only instrument that is played without any physical contact and without any kind of visual help.