Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey (1994)

Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey (1994)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

Anyone who has ever seen a horror or science fiction film from the 50s, or heard "Good Vibrations" by The Beach Boys, has heard a theremin, which was one of the first workable electronic musical instruments. But Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey is more than just the story of a novel noise-making gadget; it's the remarkable tale of Leon Theremin, a electronics wizard whose journey from Russia to America and back again sounds like the stuff of a spy novel -- and it's all true. The strange and fascinating story of Theremin's life is accompanied by newsreel footage of Theremin's career and accomplishments, and interviews with colleagues and musicians discussing the instrument which bears his name, including Beach Boys leader Brian Wilson and Clara Rockmore, who is widely recognized as the instrument's most gifted interpreter (and also Theremin's girlfriend).
Documentary , Musical & Performing Arts , Special Interest
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Kaga Bay

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Critic Reviews for Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey

All Critics (16) | Top Critics (4)

Brilliant in moments if also flawed, this is a fascinating chronicle of the man who revolutionized modern music with the world's first electronic instrument; impact on movie scores is one of the docu's best parts.

Full Review… | January 8, 2007
Top Critic


January 17, 2003
San Francisco Examiner

Dad I not known that this was a documentary, I could have convinced myself that this was a Woody Allen comedy about a genius inventor of screwball machines.

Full Review… | December 31, 1999
Internet Reviews

A fine, straight-forward documentary that relates an incredible story.

Full Review… | December 31, 1999
Deseret News, Salt Lake City

Quote not available.

Full Review… | September 7, 2011
Entertainment Weekly
Top Critic

Quote not available.

March 9, 2006
F5 (Wichita, KS)

Audience Reviews for Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey


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

Gordon Briggs
Gordon Briggs

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.

Jonathan Degann
Jonathan Degann

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.

John Ballantine
John Ballantine

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