Instruments | Theremin | Modern Era | Classical
The theremin was invented by the Franco-Russian physicist Lev Theremin (or Termen) in 1920. It is unique in the manner by which it is played, as the performer never actually touches the instrument. When the player’s hand approaches or retreats from a vertical antenna, the sound generated by two radio-frequency oscillators swings up or down. The pitch can vary across as much as five octaves and the sound, which is not unlike that of the glass armonica, is characterized by continual glissando. The theremin has retained a degree of interest and a new version of it is now in use in music education, particularly with physically impaired musicians. The two rods around which the hands play give it a disembodied appearance to match its unearthly sound. Ives, Grainger and Martin have all written for the theremin.
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