Archive for December 2014

Found on Vimeo: a documentary on the making of the Chalice Symphony by Andy Cavatorta and his team for Belgium beer company Stella Artois. A “chalice‘ is a goblet for drinking wine or (in this case) beer.

The symphony contains four beautifully crafted instruments using the chalice as  a source of sound: On the website of Andy Cavatorta you can download  sound files of these four instruments in .exs (Logic) or .nki (NI Kontakt) format

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I recently bought a Moog Theremini for my ever expanding synthesizer studio. The Theremini is a new take by Moog Music on the age old Theremin, one of the first electronic musical instruments ever made. The original Theremin generated sinus waves, which were triggered by moving your hands along two antenna’s. The new Theremini does the same, but uses digital instead of analog sound synthesis. This means it is capable of generating many more sounds than just a simple sinus waveform. This is the Moog promo video of the Theremini by thereminist Dorit Chrysler demonstrating the versatility of this renewed Moog theremin:

I have been interested in the Theremin from the 1980’s onwards. I even wrote an article on it and other ancient electronic instruments – such as the Telharmonium and the Ondes Martenot–  for a popular science magazine in the  late ’80s. The instrument was invented in 1928 by Russian inventor (and spy: read: Theremin. Ether Music and Espionage by Albert Glinsky ) Lev Termen a.k.a “Leon Theremin” in the USA. This video shows him playing his invention:

The Theremin was used in modern 20th century composed music by composers such as Messiaen and Shostakovich, but is better known for its use in film scores, notably of sci-fi B movies like  The Day the Earth Stood Still and The Thing (From Another World) and in the British TV series  Midsomer Murders. In pop/rock music the Theremin was used by the likes of the Beach Boys (Good Vibrations), Captain Beefheart & The Magic Band (Electricity), Led Zeppelin (Whole lotta Love) and space rock band Hawkwind. During the ’90’s there was some kind of a theremin revival, which is sometimes credited to the Portishead song “Mysterons” from their Dummy album. However, the distinctive “theremin” sound on this track was made by a synthesizer (probably a Roland SH-101), not by a theremin:

It is hard to play a theremin due to the glissandi generated by the hand gestures: it is difficult to keep a pitch by not moving your hands while playing. So there are only a few contemporary thereminists of which Lydia Kavina,  Carolina Eyk and Dorit Chrysler (see above) are probably the most well-known. This video shows a demonstration of the new Moog Theremini by Lydia Kavina, in which she explains some playing techniques:

 The new Moog Theremini supports Midi and has a USB port, enabling it to be used as a Midi controller. So it introduces new possibilities for an instrument which is nearly 100 years old in electronic music. Check it out if you are interested in both the history and future of electronic music instruments.

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December 2014

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