Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Lke the Cello, the violin, the human voice

Born Clara Reisenberg, Rockmore was a child prodigy on the violin and entered the Imperial conservatory of Saint Petersburg at the age of five. 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 arguably become the greatest ever virtuosa of the theremin.

Rockmore had several gifts that enabled her to play the theremin so well. Her classical training gave her an advantage over the many theremin performers who lacked this background, including the instrument's inventor. She had absolute pitch, helpful in playing an instrument that generates tones of any pitch throughout its entire range, including those that lie between the conventional notes. She had extremely precise, rapid control of her movements, important in playing an instrument that depends on the performer's motion and proximity rather than touch. She also had the advantage of working directly with Léon Theremin from the early days of the instrument's commercial development in the United States. 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. It is also remarkable to mention she had a special theremin tailored by Leon Theremin himself to meet her very unique requirements.

She developed a whole technique for playing the instrument, including a fingering system, which allowed her to accurately perform fast passages and large note leaps without the much known glissando on theremin.

Rockmore was without peer as a performer in the early decades of the instrument's use. While many listeners have heard the theremin played poorly or used mostly as a spooky special-effects device, Rockmore used it to perform classical works. Under her control, the theremin sounded like a blend of the cello, violin and human voice.

Clara Rockmore - The Art of the Thremin

Theremin World

Theremin Vox

Art's Theremin Page


At 5:34 PM, Anonymous Richard said...

Thanks for a great share - it's nice to see a little imagination in your choice. :-)


At 1:46 AM, Anonymous MacHinery said...

You have me hooked on this v/one. Thanks for this. I put some links up at SFRP for some videos of Theremin love


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