It was a busy day. I actually have a long essay written, but it's held back right now for editorial reasons.

Hey, it can happen.

I would like to point out, however, that I would really like to learn to play the Theramin. This is because of that meme about the mixing of the Simpsons theme with Star Trek? Any musical instrument played via stabbing gestures into the air is a worthy one.

God help me, the song I most want to play on a Theramin is "Don't You Want Me Baby" by the Human League.



No! Not PERL! I'm just starting to learn that language! Curse you Lindbergh!

Human League?

Here in Seattle, there's an eclectic instrument shop in Pike Place Market called "Lark in the Morning". Among the instruments they have for people to try out is a theremin. It's a fantastic bit of electrical genius, and I hope to own one someday... but I can say I've played the theremin! (Played it well, on the other hand... nah. I may end up acquiring a bagpipe from there as well...)

There is an unholy trinity of instruments that are absolutely hellish to behold when played by a novice. They are the theremin, the banjo, and the bagpipes.

Although if you hook a theremin up to a delay pedal, you can make noises that will make the nearest humpback whale mad with lust. Which can be a problem if you don't live on a boat.

I had to look it up on wikipedia, but that. IS. AWESOME. I had no idea such a thing existed. Just goes to show you that new and magical things are still around to discover, every day. :)

Add to that any unfretted stringed instrument and you've got a hell of a quintet. Well actually I haven't heard a fretless bass guitar in the hands of a novice so let's just say the acoustic ones

If anyone's after new music with a side order of theremin: -- Beth certainly isn't a novice. Welsh indie pop.

I tried playing one at the Seattle Science Museum. Damn tricky instruments to play. (Not helped by my utter lack of musical ability, but still, I could at least get a note out of a violin.)

Abby L.:

I first encountered a theremin in person at Narbonicon II on a field trip to The Bakken Museum. I imagine it's still there. That was a great little museum.

Yeah, but how many people have CDs where at least one instrument played is a theremin? I know I've got at least two by the same artist (I actually might have more; I don't know exactly when he started playing it for albums).

I'd seen the theremin played as a youth, but never got to cause one to make noise until I visited Seattle (again at the Seattle Science Museum).

They are, indeed, awesome devices.

By a strange coincidence, I've been toying with the idea of getting a theremin for a few weeks. I probably won't, at least not for a while, because even in kit form they run a few hundred dollars. Plus, I've got two other instruments that I've yet to learn to really play (as opposed to plunking out melodies by ear), and a third on which I am terribly rusty.

Still, it hasn't stopped me from window shopping at the Moog website. Between shopping for musical instuments, computer peripherals and video equipment, I've come to the realization most everything I kind of want to buy costs in the $300-$500 range, and everything I would love to own costs around $3,000-$5,000. :-(

Arg. I could have sworn I closed that link tag...

Eric, have you been reading articles about Bill Bailey too?

I have a CD where one of the tracks - Doc Met the Devil - is based on The Devil went down to Georgia, but with duelling theremin's, not fiddles. (He played: Good vibrations, the theme from Doctor Who, My favourite martian, Scary movies too...)

So the theme song to Doctor Who was made on a theremin? Creepy.

Anyway, I thought the three instruments of torchure to hear (when played by a novice or just played badly) are the clarinet, the violin and the bagpipes.
Althrough you could argue the bagpipes was the original instrument from hell. Anything that came out of looking at goats while completely and utterly blitzed on scotch can't possibly be good.

The Doctor Who theme was made in the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, which was an electronic synthesis studio. There may have been a theremin involved, but I don't know. I know they had a Mellotron equipped with sound effect tapes in the studio.

The theremin is not difficult to build yourself. It's a staple of Popular Mechanics type electronics hobby books. Robert Moog, the analog synthesis pioneer (inventor of the Moog synths, highly coveted by musicians) got his start building theremins from schematics.

It's the clichéd "oooWEEEooo" sound from countless '50s and '60s sci-fi and horror B-movies. But it can also be used as a serious instrument. I have a CD/book titled "Gravikords, Whirlies, and Pyrophones" about invented instruments that includes a track by Clara Rockmore (a theremin virtuoso who learned directly from Leon Theremin himself) performing The Swan by Saint-Saëns. It sounds like a cross between an operatic voice and a violin.

I recall seeing an instrument that basically you played back and forth. It may have been something like a manolin. I can't recall exactly what it looked like. I do remember that the unique thing about it was you basically move your hands back and forth over liquid mercury, which, yes, is poisonous if you're not wearing proper protection. Was a fairly popular instrument until people discovered that mercury is poisonous.

And it sounded like a cross between the Doctor Who theme and a harp. Or something like that.

It seems that there have been a number of musical instruments which turned out, later, to be somewhat toxic. Like the lead crystal glass used in the original versions of Ben Franklin's musical invention. I think it was called an Armonica, but I may have it mixed up with something else.

It works off the concept of playing a note by rubbing the rim of a glass, but the glasses are sort of embedded. As one can imagine, the virtuosi of said instruments were exposing themselves to lead poisoning, over time. yeep.

That would be the glass harmonica (no relation to the mouth harp). A very neat instrument.

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