Music of the Week: May 24, 2024: Once Upon a Time in the West – Katica Illényi on the Theremin

Beautiful Katica Illényi is an outstanding Hungarian violin player, singer, and theremin player who graces our music selection for this week.

The theremin is a fascinating instrument that is played without physical contact. One of the very first electronic musical instruments, it was invented in 1920 by Russian electrical engineering genius Leon Theremin, whose life and inventions, it turns out, have eye-opening relevance to many electronic military applications, from eavesdropping to mind control. For example, Theremin worked with neurologist Ivan Pavlov on hypnosis and invented gas-filled lamps as measuring devices, as well as the first motion detector. His listening device, “The Thing,” hung for seven years undetected in the American Embassy in Moscow, feeding sound and conversations to the Russian listeners.

The musical instrument named after Theremin was a byproduct of Russian research into electronic proximity sensors. Its two antennas act as capacity sensors, translating hand movements over each antenna into pitch and volume, respectively. The sounds produced are certainly electronic but still have an eerie “organic” beauty that surpasses much of the music generated by modern synthesizers.


Theremin (Wikipedia)

Katica Illényi (Homepage)

Leon Theremin playing his own instrument (YouTube)

Theremin – An Electronic Odyssey (Documentary film on the life of Leon Theremin)

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