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flapjax at midnite (2)

Ondes Martenot, or, When Maurice Met Leon.

When Maurice Martenot met Lev Sergeivich Termen in the early 1920's and heard his revolutionary new musical instrument the Theremin, he was inspired to create his own electroacoustic instrument , which he christened Ondes Martenot. Next year will mark the 80th anniversary of the first performance of this remarkable hybrid keyboard which, aside from its lovely and ethereal sound, is also aesthetically pleasing visually, with its handsome collection of multiple speakers. See and hear the instrument being played and explained in this video interview and demonstration by Jean Laurendeau, which closes with a lovely rendition of the theme from Star Trek. And, here's the instrument in use, live, alongside who else? Radiohead. [more inside]
posted by flapjax at midnite on Dec 25, 2007 - 20 comments

Bring that beat back! (press "start")

Of course you know the rhythm box/drum machine has had a profound impact on modern music-making, but how much do you know about its history? Was the Rhythmicon the very first rhythm machine? Korg's DoncaMatic (great name, eh?) was one of the first commercial models. Up until 1979 they were all pre-programmed, but Roland ushered in the modern era with the user-programmable CR-78, and followed it up soon after with the legendary TR808. Go here for a fairly comprehensive overview of vintage drum machines (organized alphabetically, with photos and descriptions/background info). And here you can interact with a wide assortment of virtual [Flash] rhythm boxes of the 70's and 80's. (Knee-jerk Flash haters, go ahead and hate it, but this is one of the best uses of Flash I can imagine.)
posted by flapjax at midnite on Dec 27, 2006 - 26 comments

Leon Sergeivitch Termen, born in Russia and later a US resident, is best known as the inventor of The Theremin, the first real electronic instrument. The Theremin is played by standing and wavings one's hands. It was used to give a futuristic sound to classic sci-fi films and still looks plenty sci-fi when played[quicktime clip] and the music it produces is strange and beautiful[real player].
Old Leon himself ended up getting kidnapped by Soviet agents and sent to a Siberian prison camp. After his release, he continued to work for the KGB, creating one of the first "bugs" -- then used to eavesdrop on the American Embassy. He was mostly unaware of the fate of his eponymous instrument. Meanwhile, his former lover, Clara Rockmore, went on to try and change the thermin from novelty to serious instrument, she even had her own unique playing style (heard in the real player clip above). Want to play? build your own, or download your own, and join the whole odd subculture.
posted by malphigian on Aug 11, 2002 - 25 comments

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