Thursday, December 17, 2009

Music for Peace of Mind?

Of all the methods developed to sonically amuse (torment?) the human organism, the Theremin exists in a class of its own. With its eerie oscillations and "magical" no-touch interface, this instrument, invented in 1918 by Léon Theremin, isn't completely obscure (it has been popular with kit-builders for decades) yet it never really became part of the musical mainstream. The above album, by Dr. Samuel J. Hoffman, was popular in the fifties, as mood-music for relaxation. The Beach Boys featured it on their pop music hit "Good Vibrations" and it also shows up from time to time on old mystery and suspense movie soundtracks.

Nevertheless, there are still practitioners of unique instrument. Every so often its distinctive tones appear, usually as a welcome surprise:

Hekla Magnúsdóttir, playing with Bárujárn, an Icelandic death-surf/psychobilly band, Reykjavík, 2009

From the Music for Peace of Mind liner notes:
This is music that has a message to give,
if you will open your mind and heart to receive it.
Turndown the lights, relax in an easy chair, and listen.
Then for a few stolen hours, perhaps you will warm to
happy memories and blissful hopes: Yours, for as long
as you may wish to hold it, will be peace of mind.

By Professor Batty


Anonymous Jon said...

And you can buy them on EBAY! I wonder what it would sound like through my Marshall?

Blogger Professor Batty said...

I think a good bass amp would work better- although not many people use the theremin's lowest octave...

Blogger Darien Fisher-Duke said...

I love the Theramin! Antonia sings a "vocal saw" that sounds a lot like a Theramin to me ...

Blogger Professor Batty said...

It definitely has its place! It was a real kick to hear it in that Icelandic surf band. Hekla was pretty good too- she could hold a pitch and and play in tune with the rest of the band, not an easy thing to do!

Anonymous Dave said...

Literally, the predecessor to the Air Guitar??

Blogger Shoshanah Marohn said...

The Theramin was recently featured on the toddler TV show, "Yo Gabba Gabba" in their feature called "Cool Tricks". The guy's cool trick was that he could play the Theramin.

As a collector of musical instruments, I'm really tempted to buy one.

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