Theremin: an Electronic Odyssey
Just viewed this fascinating documentary. Made around 1994 it tells the story of the theremin or rather the story of Leon Theremin the Russian inventor and Clara Rockmore the instruments greatest exponent.
Starting with early footage of Theremin and Rockmore in the 1920s there's some great archive footage of the introduction of the theremin to American audiences. The video also has interviews with such luminaries as Bob Moog who designed and built his own theremins in his teenage years using designs in a popular hobby magazine.
There's footage of the use of the theremin in classic movies and songs by the Beach Boys etc. Brian Wilson has an embarrassing interview and he sounded like he was talking in a foreign language, he's so off the planet.
The film is marred by not telling us who is being interviewed and there's no subtitles for some portions in Russian.
Clara is simply stunning in concert footage taken for the film and she plays classical pieces flawlessly even though she must have been in her nineties. She uses the original Theremin valve driven instruments from the twenties because, as she explains, the newer models just don't have the same sound quality and I believe her.
Theremin was unbelievably kidnapped from his New York home in the late 30s on Stalin's orders and it was assumed he died in 1947. He survived however and even was awarded a medal for inventing a spy bug for the Soviets.
The most poignant sequences are when Leon now in his late nineties is brought back to New York and has a meeting with his early protege Clara Rockmore. To see Leon as a bent old man wandering the glittering streets of his younger days like a child wandering around Santa's workshop is a sight to behold.
His meeting with Clara is emotional as she seems to be surrounded by the same instruments and photographs of the 20s and she plays beautifully for Leon on one of the antique instruments. Sadly Leon, nearly 100, died a couple of years after his visit.