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Exploring the Otherworldly Sound of the Theremin: From Leon Theremin to Today’s Virtuosos

Introduction to the Theremin

The theremin is an electronic instrument that produces an otherworldly sound. Its unique nature has made it a popular choice for movie soundtracks and has given rise to a new generation of theremin virtuosos.

In this article, we will take a closer look at the theremin, its inventor Leon Theremin, and its growing popularity in recent years.

Unique Aspects of the Instrument

The theremin is unique in many ways. Unlike most musical instruments, it is played without physical contact.

Instead, the musician uses their hands to manipulate the electromagnetic fields around two antennas, one for pitch and one for volume. The sound produced can be described as ethereal, eerie, and haunting.

It has been used in many movie soundtracks to create an otherworldly atmosphere, appealing to a mass audience.

Popularity Due to Movie Soundtracks

The theremin gained popularity in the 1940s due to its use in many science fiction and horror movie soundtracks. It was seen as the perfect instrument to create a sense of mystery and suspense in the films.

The sound of the theremin has become synonymous with these genres and has made it increasingly popular among music enthusiasts and movie buffs.

Rise of Theremin Virtuosos

In recent years, a new generation of theremin virtuosos has emerged, keeping the legacy of the theremin alive. Some of these musicians include Carolina Eyck, Clara Rockmore, Armen Ra, Natasha Theremin, Bruce Woolley, Barbara Buchholz, Peter Pringle, Lydia Kavina, Gabby La La, Eugene Mirman, Katica Illenyi, and Thorwald Jorgensen.

These musicians have taken the theremin to new heights, experimenting with different genres of music and expanding its capabilities.

Leon Theremin

Leon Theremin invented the theremin in 1919 while working on secret government projects for the Russian czar. The first public demonstration of the instrument was in Moscow in 1920.

It quickly gained popularity in Russia and was eventually introduced to the United States. The New York Philharmonic Orchestra was one of the first to feature the theremin in their performances.

Kidnapping by the KGB

In 1938,

Leon Theremin was kidnapped by the KGB and taken to a Soviet labor camp. He was forced to work on government projects, including the development of listening devices for espionage.

It wasn’t until the 1990s that he was able to return to the United States and continue his work on the theremin.


The theremin is a unique and fascinating instrument that has captured the imagination of musicians and audiences around the world. Thanks to the dedication of those who have kept its legacy alive, the theremin continues to inspire and delight people of all ages.

Leon Theremin’s invention will continue to intrigue and inspire for years to come.

Carolina Eyck

Carolina Eyck is one of the few theremin virtuosos who has achieved international recognition. She has redefined the possibilities of the instrument, using it to perform an array of genres ranging from classical and contemporary to pop.

Her virtuosity has inspired many musicians worldwide, and she continues to push the boundaries of what the theremin can do. One of Carolina’s significant contributions to the theremin is her authorship of the first-ever theremin textbook.

The book, titled “The Art of Playing the Theremin,” provides an in-depth history of the instrument and a comprehensive guide to mastering its usage. It has proven to be a valuable resource for aspiring theremin players worldwide, and it has helped to preserve the legacy of theremin music.

Clara Rockmore

Clara Rockmore was one of the earliest theremin virtuosos, responsible for helping to bring the instrument to prominence in the mid-20th century. Rockmore began her musical career as a string player, but her inability to reach the higher pitches on the fingerboard led her to explore the theremin.

She soon developed an unparalleled technique on the instrument, allowing her to produce a wide range of expressive sounds. Rockmore’s custom-built theremin, designed by inventor

Leon Theremin himself, contributed significantly to her mastery of the instrument.

It allowed her to play with great precision and expression, helping to establish her as the world’s foremost theremin virtuoso. Rockmore’s virtuosity was evident in the many performances she gave over the years, both in the United States and abroad.

Rockmore’s relationship with

Leon Theremin was a significant factor in her success as a theremin player. Theremin built a custom theremin for her, and she worked closely with him to develop the instrument’s playing technique and capabilities.

Later in life, she continued to advocate for the instrument, helping to preserve its legacy through various recordings and performances.

Armen Ra

Armen Ra is a stage artist, director, and production designer with a multifaceted career that includes performances on the theremin. A standout aspect of his performances is his emphasis on traditional Armenian songs.

Through his music, he seeks to pay homage to his cultural roots and preserve the traditions of his homeland. Aside from his performances,

Armen Ra has also gained recognition for his work in film and stage production design.

He has designed sets for a wide range of productions, including music videos, films, and stage performances. In an interview on NPR’s Weekend Edition,

Armen Ra spoke about the 100th anniversary of the theremin’s invention.

He shared his thoughts on the instrument’s legacy and the importance of preserving its unique sound. He also discussed the challenges of playing the theremin and how he has incorporated it into his artistic practice.

Natasha Theremin

Natasha Theremin is the granddaughter of Leon Theremin, the inventor of the theremin. Despite not being a musician, she has played an instrumental role in helping to popularize the theremin and preserve its legacy.

In collaboration with her father, Natasha co-founded the Theremin Festival, which aims to showcase the instrument and its unique sound to new audiences. Through her festival, Natasha has worked to promote the theremin as a legitimate musical instrument, rather than just a novelty or experimental sound.

Her efforts have helped to bring new attention to an instrument that was once on the fringes of the music world. Her father, Leon Theremin, was a passionate advocate for music and the arts.

He believed that music had the power to bring people together and inspire positive change. His love for music and his dedication to the theremin continue to inspire new generations of musicians and music enthusiasts.

Bruce Woolley

Bruce Woolley is a multi-talented musician who has been actively involved in classical music’s digital revolution. He has an extensive background as a pop musician, being a founding member of the band The Camera Club, whose music blended the genres of new-wave, space-age, ambient, and jazz.

Woolley’s instrumental skills are also varied; he is a skilled guitarist and a charismatic vocalist. His musical expertise expanded over time to include electronic instruments, making him a versatile composer and producer.

He has worked on numerous film and TV projects, and his involvement in classical music’s digital revolution has helped to expand its reach to audiences worldwide.

Barbara Buchholz

Barbara Buchholz is a pioneer in the field of theremin music and dance. She has a unique and innovative approach to playing the theremin, incorporating it into a vast array of compositions and performances.

Buchholz’s work often blends traditional classical music with more experimental and avant-garde styles. One of Buchholz’s significant contributions to the theremin is her use of multiple theremin-related instruments.

In addition to the classic theremin, she has also worked with the Thereminvox, a variation of the theremin designed by Michel Waisvisz. She also helped to develop the MIDI theremin, an instrument that allows the theremin’s sound to be processed in real-time.

Buchholz’s legacy as a creative and experimental artist and performer continues to inspire new generations of musicians and artists. Her work has helped to expand the possibilities of the theremin as a musical instrument and has introduced its unique sound to new audiences.

Peter Pringle

Peter Pringle is a multi-talented musician with a notable discography featuring music in multiple languages, including English and French. Pringle began his musical career playing the guitar, but he eventually discovered the beauty of the theremin and began incorporating the instrument into his compositions.

After working in the music industry for many years, Pringle retired from music altogether. However, he later returned to his passion for music and released a new album titled “Dancing Alone.” The album is a testament to Pringle’s enduring love for music, and his dedication to the theremin continues to inspire new generations of musicians worldwide.

Lydia Kavina

Lydia Kavina is an accomplished theremin player who began studying the instrument at an early age with Leon Theremin, the inventor of the theremin. Her connection to the instrument is deeply personal, and she has worked tirelessly to promote its beauty and versatility to a wide audience.

Throughout her career, Kavina has been active in promoting and instructing others on the theremin. She has hosted many workshops and masterclasses, including some that are specifically focused on teaching children about electronic music.

Kavina remains committed to her craft and is dedicated to continuing her advocacy for the theremin and electronic music education. Kavina’s focus on electronic music education has helped to inspire new generations of musicians worldwide and has contributed to the continued growth and popularity of the theremin.

Through her tireless promotion of the instrument, she has helped to ensure that its legacy will be preserved for many years to come.

Gabby La La

Gabby La La is a musician with a unique performance style that blends a range of genres, including punk, rock, and pop. She is known for incorporating the theremin into her original compositions, as well as her covers of classic songs.

La La’s lively and imaginative performance style has won her a passionate fan base and has helped to popularize the theremin in new and diverse ways. Her presence on YouTube and her record label, Prawn Song Records, have helped to showcase her music to a wider audience.

La La has also collaborated with other musicians, including Les Claypool of Primus, further expanding her reach.

Eugene Mirman

Eugene Mirman is a stand-up comedian and actor who has incorporated the theremin into his comedic performances. He often uses the instrument to create sound effects that add an extra dimension to his jokes.

Mirman’s unique approach to comedy has earned him a loyal following and has helped to introduce the theremin to new audiences. Mirman’s career in comedy includes regular appearances on television shows such as “Bob’s Burgers” and “Flight of the Conchords.” He has also toured extensively, bringing his brand of comedy to fans around the world.

In addition to his live performances, Mirman has released a comedy special titled “Jokes with a Theremin!” The track showcases his use of the theremin in his performances and adds an extra layer of humor to his jokes. The special is a testament to Mirman’s creativity and his ability to find new and inventive ways to incorporate the theremin into his work.

Katica Illenyi

Katica Illenyi is a talented theremin player who has made it her mission to introduce the theremin to Hungary. Her performances showcase a blend of different genres, including klezmer and Hungarian folk tunes, as well as Manouche jazz.

Illenyi’s versatility and passion for theremin music have helped to make her a popular performer and a powerful advocate for the instrument. Illenyi’s classical training is evident in her technique, which has often been compared to that of the voice and the violin.

Her performances are a testament to the beauty and expressive capability of the theremin. Through her work, she has helped to demonstrate the incredible potential of the instrument to audiences worldwide.

Thorwald Jorgensen

Thorwald Jorgensen is widely recognized as one of the leading thereminists in the world today. His work has focused on promoting the theremin in contemporary music, demonstrating its potential to create new and exciting sounds that transcend traditional musical genres.

Jorgensen’s original compositions and interpretations of classic works have inspired other musicians to explore the creative possibilities of the theremin. One of his notable performances includes a rendition of Rachmaninoff’s “Vocalise,” which he arranged for the instrument and played with great emotional depth.

Jorgensen’s dedication to the theremin has helped to establish it as a valuable and versatile instrument in contemporary music. His work has inspired other musicians and has helped to expand the potential of the theremin, paving the way for future

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