The Musical Saw and Theremin Page
March 21, 2004 5:07 PM   Subscribe

The Musical Saw and Theremin Page.
posted by hama7 (13 comments total)
Musical Saw
Musical Saw
Musical Saws
Musical Saw - Katharina Bek Berlin
posted by hama7 at 5:07 PM on March 21, 2004

I have to say it every time:

The Ondes Martenot is everything the Theremin is and so much more, and way easier to play (though you do have to touch it, it's like a keyboard you slide around with on your thumb).
posted by abcde at 5:43 PM on March 21, 2004

I'll see your Ondes Martenot, and raise you a Continuum Fingerboard.

IMHO, what makes the Theremin cool isn't so much the sound, but the fact that it created a new expressive, albeit difficult, way to play music. New music input paradigms don't come along too often.
posted by Eamon at 5:53 PM on March 21, 2004

Middle finger, not thumb, pardon me. Though for all I know some people do use their thumb :P
posted by abcde at 5:59 PM on March 21, 2004

Eamon, that's awesome. Though it costs even more than the French Connection, it's lovely (and suited for modern needs, not just a repro of an ancient instrument that doesn't even have MIDI). I've always wondered if there were a decent continuous-tone controller. Thanks a lot.
posted by abcde at 6:03 PM on March 21, 2004

though you do have to touch it

Ewww. Touch?
posted by at 6:51 PM on March 21, 2004

There was a pretty amazing saw / cello duet in Delicatessen,
everyone remembers that, right?
(What! You haven't seen it, well, you're missing out)

I haven't seen it mentioned in the links, but I'm still reading.
posted by milovoo at 7:13 PM on March 21, 2004

That duet in Delicatessen caused me to send a friend on an extended search through Paris for the soundtrack back in 1992. Since then I've collected every instance of saw or theremin in recorded music I can find, from the Paul Whiteman Orchestra's recording of Whispering through the Dark Shadows theme song right into Stereolab and Portishead. I now have a wildly eclectic and thoroughly satisfying mix of songs. I revise it and give it to friends for Halloween every year, though of course the theremin sound is much more than merely spooky.
posted by divrsional at 7:42 PM on March 21, 2004

When I was 13 or so, in the mid-Sixties, for some reason I became very interested in the Saw. Sent away for catalogues. I also built some kind of primitive thereminesque instrument.

In the last few decades, though, I've been a piano player. You know, hammers on strings. Left electronica behind with the Fender-Rhodes (although I have an electric piano out of necessity for gigs).

But in dream state, for some reason, when I'm playing music with my fingers, more often than not I'm playing on some weird surface...ceramic vases, colored cardboard...the chords are the same, but there is a freerer spatial on the saw, or the theremin.

The musical spirit yearns to breathe free, and something about the saw and the theremin speak to that.

Not that I'm giving up my patriarchal control freak vertical harmonic hierarchal western mechanical piano, though.
posted by kozad at 8:14 PM on March 21, 2004

abcde: No problem, just plugging a past professor's product!

Getting back on topic (sorta), I've been interested in the idea of using a theremin as a MIDI controller. Apparently, it has been done, but not well. I suppose a musical saw could get a similar treatment, but that would be too weird.
posted by Eamon at 8:19 PM on March 21, 2004

I desire the Continuum Fingerboard, almost enough to buy one.
(that's saying something - 'cause it's 3390.00 for the small one)

OK, so not to undercut your ex-professor but is there anything
similar that's um, well, ya know, cheaper. Maybe a kit or something.

It's like a revelation, I've had that idea in my head for years.
I just didn't know anyone made one.

Well, it's now on the top of the list for when I win the lottery.
posted by milovoo at 8:35 PM on March 21, 2004

Hmmm. I'm savoring the oddness as I just got back from playing a recording session where I encountered my first in-person musical saw. It was fascinating. I've certainly heard saws on records before but I never quite knew what was making that sound. (I had a similar reaction when I saw Clem Snide play and realized one of the band members was playing a banjo with a violin bow.)

The saw player told me about attending a workshop at Folklife led by a woman who'd been playing the saw for over sixty years and quite seriously informed her students that it took her twelve years of steady practice before she could approach playing a recognizable melody.

The saw player on this session also used a mallet to play the saw resulting in weird atonal yet melodic clanking/plinking sounds. Just sweet all around.

And when I got home and was thinking about tracking down more information on the saw, I found this post. Thanks, theremin-and-musical-sawfilter!
posted by stet at 9:22 PM on March 21, 2004

great saw tutorial! thanks
posted by roboto at 1:12 AM on March 22, 2004

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