Learning to play a Theremin

For me composing paintings and music are two parallel processes where articulation of space is one of the important aspects. I embrace dissonance and polyphony, focus on vectors of movement and speed of sounds that are tactile and spacious, through air and time.

My initial inspiration for a Theremin voice sound in 2016 came from “Pierrot Lunaire” and since then the voice is drifting towards ambience and thoughtfulness.

In this piece I am not playing a melody. I am making sounds in response to my drone.

Why I am playing with a drone? A long time ago I heard such phrases: “music was born from noise” and “you can hear music in the rhythmic sound made by wheels of a moving train.” And, yes, I do hear music in noise. I remembered these phrases suddenly when by chance (unintentionally) I made a train sequence on my synthesizer… Soon I set up a droning sound on my eurorack and then listened and played what I heard in this drone. This is how my music is born out of noise.

In 2021 I started seriously thinking about video presentation of my Theremin performance. My first attempt was “Epatage.” In this video I play Theremin along with is my orchestral composition from 2014.

And this experience inspired my next two sound works “Sea” and “Say”.

I have to admit, I practiced playing Theremin every day and by 2020 I was finally able to play classical arias in pitch and in tempo. I practiced “O mio babbino caro” since 2016, before I could publicly share this recording:

As it became much easier to play the instrument I was wondering what else can I play and experiment with. I made my previous tasks a little bit more complicated by playing with evolving eurorack sequence. The difficulty here is in not knowing before hand where the next sound will be:

In 2019 I composed my first large-scale work for Theremin and Synthesizers “Mono Opera In Dust”. This is a video from my practice for a live performance.

In 2018 I had three interesting thoughts. I can play Theremin with a drum sequence, I can use an effect pedal to improvise with a classical piece, and I can play with a drone sound.

My first recording of the year was “Occasion” – it later became a part of my “Mono Opera”

I was learning to play classical pieces at the same time and I was gradually getting better with staying “in pitch” and I was increasing my speed. At the moment I was practicing Mozart’s Symphony No.40 in G minor K550 and you can hear a motive from it in my solo improvisation with effects pedal:

The question was – what to do with the instrument that can play a melody and make electroacoustic noise. I was enjoying finding simple solutions. The easiest solutions at the start were to play a melody and make electroacoustic noise, and this is what I continued with in 2017. I recorded several solo sound improvisations, improvised Theremin solos with other synthesizers and with another prerecorded Theremin solo.

I bought my first Theremin in August 2016. I started gradually learning how to play the instrument and parallel with that I was experimenting with different ideas for sound compositions. I played Theremin with electroacoustic wind sound and with a long soundtrack I made for the occasion in my painting studio. It worked great, people were coming and going, and they listened to me playing for a few minutes, and I could stop and start playing at any point in time.

My interest in Synthesizers was prompted by the work “Steam” by A. Schnittke, he wrote it on the ANS Synthesizer in 1969. After I heard this work I started to look for a synthesizer that can possibly emulate ANS sounds and I bought my first Synthesizer in 2014. I also became interested in the history of synthesizers and that brought my attention to Theremin. I had no idea whether I will be able to play the instrument.