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Matryomin: a theremin squeezed into a Russian nesting doll
March 1, 2011 1:00 PM   Subscribe

The Theremin is a fairly well known instrument, by it's sound if not appearance. Masami Takeuchi, the first professional thereminist of Japan, changed the typical look of the theremin by setting it inside a matryoshka doll, calling the product Matryomin. Where the typical theremin consists of two antenna (a horizontal loop antenna for volume and a vertical linear antenna for pitch), Matryomin are more basic and only allow pitch control. The function is straight-forward, but it's not so easy. To play well requires accuracy. That's one Matryomin, how about a group performance, or a large ensemble?

More videos:
Ulybka2525 is a small ensemble of Matryomin players with a few clips online, plus I think a few members are in this 70's (?) Disco Medley played on Matryomin, kazoo, nose flute, Melodica and Q Chord.

Mandarin Electron is the company behind the Matryomin, and they have a lot of clips online, but they are in Japanese, usually without any subtitles or English descriptions. There are some straight-forward music clips, and some music in their Mandarin Electron TV series.

Masami Takeuchi has his own channel, Masami1920, with solo clips and a couple ensemble clips.
posted by filthy light thief (20 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
Neat!

And, since I watched The Lost Weekend for the first time last night, timely.
posted by Joe Beese at 1:02 PM on March 1, 2011


Theremin post? Obligatory Clara Rockmore response.
posted by lothar at 1:14 PM on March 1, 2011


Cute and awesome. Thanks.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:15 PM on March 1, 2011


lothar: Theremin post? Obligatory Clara Rockmore yt response.

Check and check - 3rd link in is the same as your link. Takeuchi also has a recording of Swan, played by theremin and piano, which I actually like more than Clara Rockmore's version (blasphemy, I know). The vibrating notes style doesn't work for me. The tremolo or vibrato effect seems like a show of technical skill, disregarding how it sounds in the song.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:29 PM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I fucking love the theremin.
Also, the saw. Can we have a supplementary post on musical saws?

...okay I'm going to check out the links now.
posted by Stagger Lee at 1:40 PM on March 1, 2011


This is perhaps the most interesting thing I've seen in weeks. I'm fascinated and more importantly, I need one.
posted by stormygrey at 2:38 PM on March 1, 2011


It may be time for me to end my moratorium on theremin building activities, particularly considering I just dusted off my electronics workbench over the weekend and realized I had four half-completed instruments sitting there in a box, trapped in silent limbo after my theremin crisis of 2003. I've only built one in the meantime, a commissioned instrument for the American Visionary Art Museum, and had pretty much closed that door, except Randy George came along. Randy George makes me want to build again. The old reservations persist, but there are finally players out there.
posted by sonascope at 2:47 PM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


My previous theremin thread.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:55 PM on March 1, 2011


The function is straight-forward, but it's not so easy.

And theremin...lies the problem!
posted by tumid dahlia at 3:02 PM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Takeuchi also has a recording of Swan , played by theremin and piano, which I actually like more than Clara Rockmore's version (blasphemy, I know). The vibrating notes style doesn't work for me. The tremolo or vibrato effect seems like a show of technical skill, disregarding how it sounds in the song.

It's vibrato that she's using. Takeuchi's rendition uses vibrato as well, although it's less pronounced. I wouldn't say that vibrato like that is a show of technical skill -- it'd be more difficult to perform with no vibrato, as every note would have to have perfect intonation. But it's ultimately an interpretive/stylistic choice.

Also it seems that the Matryomin isn't quite a true theremin in that it is played one-handed and thus lacks a volume control. Still really neat though.
posted by Anatoly Pisarenko at 3:10 PM on March 1, 2011


I love the strange finger movements they make in playing the theremin. I've wondered if its really necessary though, since they all seem to do it a bit differently.

I've always wanted a theremin, but I don't like the buzzy sounds of the cheaper ones.
posted by DarkForest at 3:26 PM on March 1, 2011


I've wondered if its really necessary though, since they all seem to do it a bit differently.

There's some insight on that subject in the "performance technique" section of the theremin wikipedia entry.
posted by Anatoly Pisarenko at 3:28 PM on March 1, 2011


My daughter (age 10) is the proud owner of a Matryomin, which the wife and I bought her here in Tokyo as a birthday present. It's loads of fun. Papa spends a fair amount of time with it....

In addition to Blazecock Pileon's theremin thread noted in his comment above, there's long been lotsa love for the theremin here at Mefi.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:57 PM on March 1, 2011


Can we have a supplementary post on musical saws?

Got you covered.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:00 PM on March 1, 2011


D'oh! Shoulda checked each and every link in your FPP, filthy light thief, before I posted. I see now that your fairly well known instrument link is a nod to previous theremin posts here at Mefi.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:03 PM on March 1, 2011


Japanese zen masters use the theremin to hear the sound of one hand clapping.
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:48 PM on March 1, 2011


Yeah, but only every now and zen.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:53 PM on March 1, 2011


I loved the ensemble piece... it looks like they're all using stethoscopes to listen to their theremins and amplifying them with Danelectro Honeytones (or their pacific rim doppelgangers). From a pure "fun noise" standpoint I've created the worlds first "Shoe Theremin;" here's a clip of "the Dancing Record Man" Richard Storms playing it @ the Shoe Factory Art Co-op.
posted by lotusstp at 6:55 PM on March 1, 2011


Thank you for this awesome post.

I have ended up on Pamelia Kurstin's soundcloud page. This is a good thing.

Thank you again.
posted by motty at 8:15 PM on March 1, 2011


This Theremin documentary is well worth watching.
posted by Surinam Toad at 7:39 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


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