Melody of the Universe: how the Soviet “father of electronics” created a cosmic musical instrument
This, without exaggeration, unique musical unit could not be attributed to any type of instrument. Moreover, the melody that he plays after a couple of mysterious passes with his hands is so amazing that it is called alien. And the biography of its inventor is full of riddles and rumors. All this is about the theremin-an amazing musical instrument, and its author Lev Theremin.
Lev theremin is rightly considered an avant-gardist and pioneer of electronics. And he lived a long, eventful life, covering, in fact, all the historical and political periods of the changeable 20th century. However, keeping faith with science, theremin did not pay attention to external vicissitudes, until his last days he was engaged in electronics.
Lev Sergeyevich Termen — a nobleman by origin-was born in St. Petersburg on August 28, 1896, was educated at a gymnasium, then graduated from the Conservatory with a cello class. However, after that, he abruptly changed the direction of his interests and became a student of the faculty of physics and mathematics. During the First world war, when radio engineering was rapidly coming to the fore, Termen worked in Tsarskoye Selo as a military radio engineer.
After the end of hostilities, he became an employee of the laboratory of Abram Ioffe to study the electrical properties of gases. It was in this room in 1919 that theremin created the first prototype of his most famous invention – a musical instrument, which was later called the theremin with the light hand of the shark pen.
The theremin was the first electric instrument to receive huge recognition – previous devices were too bulky. But Lev Sergeyevich invented a completely unique mechanism for reproducing sound-the Termen adopted the axiom that sound is air vibrations similar to those created by an electromagnetic field. So, he placed two oscillators inside the theremin, and the difference in their frequencies is equal to the frequency of sound. The pitch of the sound was regulated by the movement of the hand in relation to the antenna: the closer, the higher the sound. Therefore, the invention of Lev theremin can not be attributed to either wind instruments, strings, or percussion instruments.
Interesting fact: the same principle robots theremin was used in the creation of another creation, which we still use today. We are talking about contactless signaling. Moreover, this device was enthusiastically received personally by Vladimir Lenin, for whom a demonstration was arranged right in the Kremlin.
Musical education allowed Lev Sergeyevich to make the theremin an instrument capable of reproducing melodies of huge ranges: according to information Novate.ru you can even play an Indian scale consisting of twenty-two notes. Thus, the inventor confirmed his own idea: “the Performer… should control the sounds, but not produce them.”
The theremin and its author became extremely popular: the Bolsheviks decided to use their creativity to promote electrification, and the theremin went on an all-Union tour. This was not the end of Lev Sergeevich’s activity: he continued to perform, and these events were called “lecture-concert”. And soon he was invited to tour Europe.
In the 1930s, the territory of coverage of the “space music” of the theremin extended to the United States of America, where, after a long tour, Lev Sergeyevich remained to live. He met a large number of famous people of that time and significantly increased his financial wealth by creating the company Teletouch, which deals with alarm systems and radio equipment.
Interesting fact: Lev Termen bought a six-story building and rented out apartments. One of the tenants was albert Einstein, who was seriously interested in the theremin and its principle of operation.
At the same time, the status of a millionaire did not distract the passionate lover of science from the invention. So, the theremin has designed several electric musical instruments – terminological, “ritmico” – a prototype drum machine and “terpsitone” – essentially, a modernized theremin, but the sound created not just by passes of the hands, and the whole dance, the whole body is a “conductor”.
The inventor became a real inspiration for other technicians who tried to create similar musical instruments. However, no one has managed to repeat the worldwide fame of the theremin.
As the years passed, the popularity of the unique instrument expanded and did not subside. The theremin was put into serial production, hundreds of musicians around the world learned to play it, and the range of repertoire was quite large: from the best samples of classical music to works written specifically for the theremin.
And Lev Sergeyevich Termen remained true to his scientific passion and literally created something until the last days. During his long life, he managed to survive a lot: worldwide recognition, return to his Homeland, which ended in arrest, continued work after release. Surprisingly, it always kept pace with the eras of the turbulent twentieth century, which suddenly and rapidly changed. Lev Sergeyevich died in 1993 in Moscow at the age of 97.
But his case is still alive. But few of our contemporaries know that wireless alarms and listening devices, which everyone knows, were also the brainchild of an eternally young inventor. As for the theremin, its history has not faded, and thousands of musicians in different parts of the world are learning to create cosmic sounds. One of the most famous performers on this instrument is the great-grandson of Lev Sergeyevich Pyotr Termen, who devoted all his activities to the instrument. He not only gives concerts, but also became the Creator of the “school of theremin”, where they teach you to master the “melodies of the Universe”, and also founded the festival “Thereminology”.
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