The unique sound of the theremin

Posted at 9:58 AM, May 08, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-08 11:58:42-04

HELENA — There are a plethora of musical instrument types, but not many that the performed doesn't touch to play. Such is the case with the theremin.

“Playing the theremin is kind of addictive because it really is difficult. And it takes a lot of concentration if you want to play accurately... So, if I want to play an E, I have to hold very still because if I move my head. So, it's almost like a meditation playing theremin because it's like juggling. It's something that takes a lot of concentration,” says theremin player, Marla Goodman.

Created around 1919, this odd instrument works by creating electromagnetic fields around two antennae. The straight vertical antenna controls pitch while the horizontal looped antenna controls the volume. The player moves both hands to control both.

Marla Goodman, an artist from Bozeman, was introduced to the unusual instrument by her husband, an electrical engineer. She held a workshop in Helena on Monday evening, showcasing its capabilities and giving participants a chance to create sounds themselves.

“Everybody's gonna collaborate and get to work together to create graphical scores, meaning they're going to draw scores and we're going to interpret them by playing the theremin. And they're also going to use a synthesizer where they will literally draw a picture and that synthesizer turns drawings into sounds,” says Goodman.

Goodman says the theremin can be a useful tool for singers but is also just a fun instrument on its own.

“It's a great way to get in touch with your internal sense of pitch if you're a singer or another musician and you wanna learn more about pitch. But it's also just great to experiment with and have fun,” says Goodman.