The art of noise

EoIpso: Do you think the theremin still is a popular instrument? There seems to be a revival of interest in these old instruments from time to time, but not on a very large scale.

Hypnotique: I would say that 100000 Etherwave Theremin instruments sold by Moog Music is pretty big scale! In a way it is too big. The theremin has become a parody of itself, and yet there is great playing across the world - in America, Canada, Russia, Japan, and Western Europe - which I showcased in a radio show called "Into The Ether". On a recent trip to Denmark showcasing Bob Moog's new Etherwave Pro professional instrument there was a lot of interest from people who already had a theremin. Everyone nowadays claims to "play" the theremin, but most are not musical people and cannot play anything! But the quantity of players means that eventually more good players will come through. I think the interest will continue to grow, particularly in Europe, and maybe next in China or India. It will be good to hear more Eastern types of music interpreted on this wonderful instrument, which is capable of producing every microtone. Steve Martin's 1995 film "Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey" is astonishing and has inspired a lot of general interest and also more serious interest.

EoIpso: The theremin is often portrayed as a freaky instrument that produces some weird sounds if you wave your hands in front of it. How do you feel about people who regard the theremin as a gimmick instrument?

Hypnotique: It infuriates us players the way the media has made the theremin a parody of itself - even appearing in The Simpsons and some current arty movies like "Les Aimants". It is always the same goofy Sci-Fi approach, about some crazy inventor or freak. This is why Clara Rockmore, the world's greatest theremin player from the 1930s, did not want to play in the Hollywood movies: because she thought it would be all horror and voodoo music! The theremin is a lot of fun and shouldn't be taken too seriously, but it is also a beautiful and very melancholic sounding instrument - the most moving and passionate of all electronic instruments, and it should be respected. Bill Bailey, an English comedian, recently presented a show about the theremin for Radio 4. In it he joked "there are about 100 people in the world who play the theremin as a serious musical instrument, but I'm not one of them". I am one of them, and I'd like to take my pitch rod to a part of Bill Bailey where the sun doesn't shine! We cannot rise to this, only try to play better, more virtuosic and inventive music using the theremin and ignore these "amateurs" and fools.

EoIpso: If I understand you correctly, you're interested in the Futurist movement from the early Twentieth century. These artists like Russolo and Severini had quite radical ideas and a craving for speed, change and the dynamics of urban life. Isn't that quite a contradiction as you are dreaming about escaping London's urban jungle and moving to the country?

Hypnotique: But the world in 1920 is so different to 2005! I don't think the Futurists could in their wildest dreams imagine how fast paced, technological, and viciously cruel the modern world has become. The Italian Futurists dreamt of new sonic possibilities - and lo and behold - we are in a world where even in Techno (a mainstream music) crunch, crash, and sounds from the factories and machines have become tolerant to the body and ear. This is a wonderful development. I consider myself to be a futuristic person, but I am young, have much to learn of this and of other worlds. The cities of this world are filled with speed, but it has turned to anger, and so I have been advised to move to the centre of the country to be more protected from bad spirits. I do love technology, but I don't like the way people have let it not influence but dictate their lives - that they cannot go back to life without a mobile phone, without the internet or cable TV. And people are frustrated that their super speed technology is just too slow! This is Fritz Lang's "Man Machine" theory in practice - man is becoming the machine, and this is wrong. We must connect with machines and learn how to work with them, and not let them lead us. Soon humans may be born with giant thumbs: we will have evolved in order to perform quicker text messaging.

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Searching for the perfect pitch

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