The Sunday cat discovers the theremin and uncovers a controversy

First, an inexpensive version of the theremin in a sweet cat’s paws:

The theremin is a very early electronic instrument, generally said to have been invented by a Russian physics professor, Lev Thermin,  in 1919.  But here’s the first concert player of  the theremin, Clara Rockmore (1911-1998):

And according to a comment on youtube, her version is more complicated:

The low cello register of a somber, but beautiful heart, of an instrument she, herself, designed.
“I invented this sound; Professor Termin merely made the tone that I wanted, trial after trial, until, I knew, ‘that’s it!’.”

According to the wikipedia her contribution to the instrument is after its first version was developed:

Rockmore, as the mature musician she was, saw the limitations of the original instrument and helped to develop the instrument to fulfill her needs, making several suggestions to improve the theremin as a performing instrument. Such suggestions, like a faster volume antenna, wider musical range, and control over the instrument’s tone colour were incorporated by the inventor in later versions. She had a special theremin tailored by Léon Theremin himself to meet her unique requirements

She was a musical prodigy:

Born as Clara Reisenberg in (present-day) Vilnius, Lithuania, Rockmore was a child prodigy on the violin and entered the Imperial conservatory of Saint Petersburg at the age of five. She studied violin under the virtuoso Leopold Auer, and remains to this day the youngest student ever to be admitted to the institution. Unfortunately, bone problems due to childhood malnutrition forced her to abandon violin performance past her teen years. That however led her to discover the newborn electronic instrument and become the most renowned female player of the theremin.

The Sunday Cat always gets so worried when she hears about a brilliant woman being is lost to history, with her contribution absorbed into that of another.  How can this happen?

4 thoughts on “The Sunday cat discovers the theremin and uncovers a controversy

  1. Jenny – you speak for us also! How extraordinary. Thank you JJ for expanding our world of music. And for an adorable and “talented” Sunday Cat!

  2. Thank you for such cheering comments, J and F&J.

    We’ve probably heard more of the theremin than we realize, since it does get played in some rock music. I became aware of the instrument about this time last year, when I was in Vancouver for the APA conference. A man brings one sometimes to Stanley Park and plays it quite wonderfully.

    It has a surprising range and it’s fun to look on youtube at some of the different people using it.

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