Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey Reviews

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August 30, 2015
What an incredible story. Very touching.
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.
March 17, 2013
I show excerpts of this to my Computers in Music class. Fascinating man, unintentionally funny Brian Wilson.
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.
November 18, 2012
Fascinating documentary about a fascinating instrument.
May 13, 2012
A fine, straight-forward documentary that relates an interesting story.
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.
January 6, 2012
A fine, straight-forward documentary that relates an interesting story.
½ July 27, 2011
This is very interesting and entertaining
July 26, 2010
I was interesting to hear about the invention of this instrument and how it was used throughout the years. I was not a big fan of hearing people trying to play classical music on it for over half the movie.
½ May 30, 2010
Fascinating story of the pioneer behind all forms of electronic music. Theremin's instrument struggle to become accepted by the musical establishment was cut short by his disappearance for over twenty years. His creation became Hollywood camp in the forties and fifties, yet were also the seeds of modern synthesizers in the sixties and seventies. The tale is well buttressed by period footage, interviews with Moog and Wilson, evocative performances by virtuoso Clara Rockmore, and film of Theremin himself in his nineties. Not for everyone, but an invaluable document of a form and era long gone.
January 16, 2010
A bit stale as a documentary, but for most parts the subject matter is still fascinating enough to sustain the viewer's interest. Add or remove one star depending on how much or little the history of electronic instrumentation (and the pioneering people) is of interest to you.
December 27, 2008
Absolutely fascinating study of electronic music pioneer inspires as many 'what if's' as it does expressions of amazement.
October 17, 2008
An edifying look at the life and legacy of this pioneer, I will nonetheless always remember this documentary as the film that first demonstrated to me the effects of Brian Wilson's convalescence.
October 5, 2008
One of the best music docs ever. This is informative and a lot of fun.
September 21, 2008
really great, reminds me of my old roomie john who i just reconnected with last week by coincidence.
August 4, 2008
If you are interested in the roots of electronic music this movie will rock your world.
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