Theremin for the Classics

July 10, 2011 · Posted in Uncategorized 

Schubert played on the theremin:

Some of my online theremin friends didn’t want me to record this theremin transcription of Franz Schubert’s SERENADE. They said it was too schlocky and romantic and that I shouldn’t waste my time on it! Nevertheless, it remains one of the most popular and recognizable melodies from one of my favorite composers. This arrangement is for theremin and Haken continuum (accompanied by the Korg TRITON EXTREME). The continuum is playing the delicate recorder/flageolet sound that follows the theremin. Although I think my brain could have played all three instruments at once, I just don’t have enough arms and hands, so I prepared the track and played the theremin live.

In the summertime, I often use my barn for music. The barn was built in the 1860’s during the American civil war and no nails were used in its construction. It is made entirely of hardwoods and held together with expertly fitted joints and wooden spikes. When you play music in it, the whole building vibrates like the soundbox of a giant bass or cello. Unfortunately it isn’t very well insulated and it isn’t heated so it is useless for music in the winter. But it’s great in the summer!

According to music historians the Austrian composer Franz Schubert (1797 – 1828) wrote this composition in the summer of 1826 in a beer hall, jotting the notes down on the back of a menu. He had apparently stopped in to the place to have a couple of pints and cool off.

The theremin in the video is a Moog Ethervox. The Haken continuum is a continuous controller which, unlike the theremin, does not have a sound of its own. It can sound like just about anything you want and, like the theremin, can elegantly slide from one end of its range to the other in a seamless “gliss”. It is also polyphonic and has 16 voices (the theremin is monophonic with only one voice).

I was going to call this piece, “Schubert & the theremin & the continuum go to Bollywood” because I am used to wearing Indian clothes when the weather is particularly hot (as it was today when I recorded this). Natural air conditioning

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