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From an off-topic discussion on the EDTECH-L discussion list...
Date: Sat, 6 May 1995 00:01:16 EDT
From: Philip Hess 


As a child, I can recall visiting a museum in Toronto Canada that had this neat
machine that made various noises when you moved your hands across it. It sensed
your presence either by light or capacitance. The primary application it seems
was to generate space craft noises for science fiction movies in the 50's and
60's. I believe that it was called a "thermin" or something similar. Anybody
know what this is and can point me in the direction of plans to make one?


Philip Hess
North Hills School District
Pittsburgh, PA	USA

Date: Sat, 6 May 1995 23:57:33 EDT
From: Robert Gershon 

I can't remember the name of the device, but you are close.  There was an
article in the New York Times Sunday arts section on it a couple of years ago.	
You might try the index under movie sound or some such.  It was invented by a
Russian who worked within the system in the USSR and then tried in the West.

Wish I remembered more.

Robert Gershon
Communication Dept.
Castleton State College
Castleton, VT  05735

Date: Mon, 8 May 1995 10:00:23 EDT
From: Allan R Barclay 

Yes, its called a theremin. You play it by moving your hand at varying distances
from a sensor of some kind. I remember a fair amount of material in the
Brittanica under the "electronic music" heading. Strangely enough, its also been
discussed in the electronic music (emusic) listserv, though I'm afraid I didn't
keep the posts. You might bop in and post a question there (I don't have the
address handy, but I think you could get to it fairly easily via Netscape).

Allan R Barclay
Assistant Reference Librarian
Ruth Lilly Medical Library
Indiana University School of Medicine
(317) 274-2254

Date: Mon, 8 May 1995 23:20:03 EDT
From: "Dr. Jim Swanson" 

I think this machine was made by RCA.  There was a rod antenna that one
"played" to control the pitch, and a little loop antenna on the left side
that was the volume control.

I remember going to a Theremin "concert" at the rural school I attended
in Florida.  A man whose name was Orben Sime (?) presented a one-person
concert of sacred music.  He requested no applause because of the type
of music he played, and took up a "free-will" offering as his
compensation.  I can't imagine that he made much in our town.

This was more than 50 years ago. (God, but I'm getting old.)  But I guess
it made an impression on me.  Maybe that concert piqued my interest in
computers & other things electronic....

	Jim S.

Dr. Jim Swanson
Associate Professor
Aviation Business Administration
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
600 S. Clyde Morris Blvd.
Daytona Beach, Florida 32114

Prof. Theremin

A 90-minute TV documentary c1992 (shown on late-night TV in 1998) explained that the device was invented by Russian electronic engineer Prof. Theremin c1920 and he spent much of the 20s & 30s in the USA, teaching its use at his studio in New York.

In 1945 he seemed to disappear and only recently has it emerged that he was working on research projects such as bugging devices for the KGB.

Some notable players of the Theremin

The Beach Boys
On Good Vibrations a horizontal one was used to novel effect. (Seen in a performance clip on Channel 4's Top 100 Singles.)

Bill Bailey
Uses a very modern-looking slim, black one in his act. He even uses his tongue sometimes to play it!

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