Leon Termen, the creator of one of the first widely used and mass produced electronic instruments the eponymous ‘Theremin’ developed a keyboard version of the instrument during his stay in New York. The Keyboard Theremin used the same heterodyning technique to generate a monophonic tone but this time controlled by a five octave 61 key manual instead of the Theremin’s difficult to master hand gestures. The ex-cellist Termen also added a fingerboard continuous controller so that the player could switch between keyboard and string like playing. The instrument had two foot pedal to shape the sound and add vibrato and a series of organ-like stops to emulate the timbres of conventional instruments such as the organ, Piano, brass, woddwind as well as percussive timpani effects. The amplified output of 100 watts was fed into a bank of six twelve inch speakers.(1)
The Theremin Keyboard was premiered at a concert at the Carnegie Hall in 1932 by the ‘Theremin Electrical Symphony Orchestra’; a ten player ensemble (Termen originally wanted forty musicians) all playing fingerboard and keyboard theremins, each instrument tuned to take the part of an orchestral instrument and performing a ‘conventional’ classical repertoire including J.S.Bach’s ‘Fantasia in G’ and ‘Ave Maria’. Impressed by it’s range and portability, the composer Leopold Stokowski used the Keyboard Theremin at orchestral concerts in Philadelphia, New York and Washington.
(1)’ Theremin: Ether Music and Espionage’ By Albert Glinsky. p145
‘Music From Electrons’ Radio News. August 1972 P76. Irving J. Saxl. Phd
2 thoughts on “The ‘Keyboard Theremin’ Leon Termen, USA, 1930.”
no more pictures once again…
what is it going on your site ?
it’s sad. the best website about electronic instruments history…
Hi – the server went down in September. Managed to restore most of the site but yet to complete…back soon!