Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey Reviews
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.