The Theremin : Celebrating 100 Years Of An Unforgettable Instrument

Few musical instruments have drawn the fascination that the electronic Theremin has over the years, from its pigeonholed place in scary Halloween movies to its celebration in the 1920s on the stage of Carnegie Hall, the instrument is as curious as it is beautiful to listen to if played well.

And playing it well is just what virtuoso Carolina Eyck plans to do this weekend, Oct. 6, in a show with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project at Jordan Hall – a show that will celebrate the history of the Theremin and give an interesting kick-off to this season’s musical repertoire.

“Obviously, all instruments are different from each other,” she said. “The reason the Theremin is so special is because you don’t touch it when you play it. It takes very serious body control. As a child, it was very hard to have the strength to hold a note for very long. It was later when I grew up I became better at that. The more strength I had in my body, the better I did playing more clearly.”

Eyck began playing the Theremin at the age of 7, as her parents were very interested in electronic and meditative music. After she learned to play the piano and other instruments, her parents let her get a Theremin. Since that time, she continues with her other musical instruments, but her love is for the oh-so-curious Theremin.

The Theremin is an electronic instrument powered by a box that emits electromagnetic fields between two antennae. Any sort of body component or movement in the area will change the volume or the pitch of the sound produced. Typically, players will use two hands to manipulate the sound, with one hand controlling the volume and the other controlling the pitch. The instrument was quickly accepted in the Classical repertoire for orchestration, but it was also picked up by Hollywood and used in quirky horror movies.

That, Eyck said, is both a blessing and curse.

“In one way, it’s nice people know of the instrument because of the misconceptions,” she said. “On the other hand, I’m hoping to show people who have not known the Theremin in any other way than when it was used to play creepy Halloween music that it is a beautiful instrument. There is so much to this instrument that people don’t know about.”

Part of the celebration for the Sunday concert will be marking 100 years since the introduction of the instrument. While many instruments like the violin are decades old, the Theremin has a very short history in comparison.

“We’re celebrating 100 years of Theremin this year, so this is an historic concert,” she said. “It’s a special year and it’s wonderful we’re able to do this show in a great venue and bringing the Theremin back on stage with an orchestra…I really think people who come will just enjoy the remarkable combination of the orchestra with the Theremin. It will be a very colorful experience.” ‘The Roaring Twenties’ concert will feature old music for the Theremin, and some new pieces as well, including Dalit Warshaw’s brand new piece that will premiere on Oct. 4. It will kick off Boston Modern Orchestra Project’s season, and in a very unique way.

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