Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey Reviews

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Super Reviewer
December 31, 2012
A very very cool documentary on the inventor of one of the most imaginative musical instruments ever constructed - the theremin. Known best for being in the background of the Beach Boys' Good Vibrations, the theremin provides an unlikely partner to the composition of both classical and modern works.
½ June 2, 2014
Musicians & sound studies folks should take note. Everything from Cold War spies, to 1950's Science fiction & the Beach Boys are apart this peculiar history of an electronic instrument & its enigmatic inventor
½ March 24, 2013
The Theremin is regarded as the first electronic instrument. It has no keyboard, and is instead controlled by moving one's hands around a pair of antennae to control the pitch and amplitude.

I expected this to be a sort of travelogue of how cool is the Theremin - the fact that it was "introduced" as the weird woo-woo sound on The Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations", and so on. This documentary shows that there is way more to both the instrument and its inventor. If you think you might be kinda curious - definitely catch this on Netflix - because it is a charming and eye opening documentary.

Leon Theremin was quite a personality. He was extremely devoted to developing his instrument, had a band of followers, and cared little for convention. He alienated many of his (probably otherwise liberal) friends when, in the twenties, he dared to marry a black woman. Shortly thereafter, his story gets weirder when he disappears from the NYC scene - apparently abducted by the KGB!

In addition to exposing Theremin's personal story, much is revealed about the instrument that was new to me. Theremin and his protege Clara Rockmore envisioned the Theremin as a serious concert instrument. Several classical pieces were written for it - including a Concerto for Theremin and Orchestra - and concerts sold out in Carnegie Hall well before it entered pop culture. It comes out that there was a sort of tussle between the devotees - notably Rockmore - who wanted to develop its concert potential, and the wider attention it got in some rock music and as an eerie effect in film scores.

Among those interviewed are Brian Wilson, who talks a little about the development of "Good Vibrations", and Robert Moog, who as the inventor of the Moog Synthesizer, is probably the most important person to have popularized the use of electronic instruments. Moog was inspired by the Theremin, and made his own versions of it (which Rockmore regards as inferior to Theremin's) first as a hobbyist and later as a devotee.

There is a lot of fascinating material here and if you're the sort of person who knows a little about the Theremin, you'll enjoy leaving this film knowing a lot.
July 5, 2007
Fascinating documentary about a fascinating instrument.
February 16, 2012
This movie is the best ever done about electronic instruments featured in 50s sci-fi movies.

Peace,
Tex Shelters
½ January 28, 2012
A fascinating look into the history of one of the strangest, yet beautiful instruments in existence.
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