Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd.
View your shopping cart Shopping Cart | My Account | Help | Become a Fan on Facebook Become a Fan | Follow Us on Twitter Follow Us | Watch Us on YouTube Watch Us | Subscribe to our RSS Feeds Subscribe
Browse ProductsAuthorsArticlesBlogsEncyclopediaNewslettersAffiliate ProgramContact UsBooksellers
Advanced Search
LLEWELLYN JOURNAL
Article Topics
List of Articles
RSS Data Feeds
Mission Statement
Use of Our Articles
Writers' Guidelines

Email Exclusives
Sign up to receive special offers and promotions from Llewellyn.

Get the Latest Issue of New Worlds

July/August 2014 Issue

New Worlds Catalog

Get the FREE app for your tablet and mobile device. Now available in the iTunes Store and the Google Play Store

Also available as a PDF File.

Click for more information about New Worlds or to receive issues via mail.


The Llewellyn Journal
Print this Article Print this Article

Sound of Mystery: The Theremin

This article was written by Andrew Honigman
posted under

In the grand ballroom of an elegant New York hotel, an elite and learned crowd is gathered in anticipation around a wooden cabinet from which extend two shiny antennas. A well-dressed gentleman enters, striking a pose at the box like a conductor directing an invisible orchestra. As if in response, a startling, but oddly beautiful hum emanates from the diamond-shaped frame mounted above the cabinet. The sound is something like the wordless singing of a richly harmonic human voice-or the musical saw of a god. The audience sits in wonder as this “magician” draws music out of the air, his movements instantly becoming melody.

Such was the scene in 1928 as inventor Leon Theremin (born Lev Sergeyevich Termen in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1896) demonstrated his new musical instrument, the “Aetherphon” or “Thereminvox” to an amazed group of scientists, musicians, and New York socialites. This jazz-age marvel, the godfather of all electronic musical instruments, was especially notable in that the performer plays it entirely without touching.

Beat Frequency Oscillation
The theremin (as it has come to be known) makes use of an electronic concept called “heterodyning,” in which the interplay of two high-frequency signals produces a third, lower-frequency signal. In the case of the theremin, a fixed frequency signal is played off one that varies according to the distance of the player’s hand from the pitch antenna, producing the audible “beat” frequency. It is interesting to note that this idea is similar to that later utilized by George Meek’s Spiricom and other Electronic Voice Phenomena devices, although in these cases it is a disembodied spirit who (in theory) manipulates the variable frequency.

The theremin itself was never used to communicate with the dead. The instrument was initially promoted for use on the classical stage as a sort of futuristic violin. Although a small group of thereminists gave well-received performances throughout the late 1920s and 1930s, the instrument never really caught on as intended-probably due to the tremendous skill needed to exploit its full potential. Playing the theremin well demands the concentration and physical control of a martial arts master. Equally necessary is a well-developed sense of pitch-the player’s only guide in the absence of any familiar physical interface like a fretboard or keys. Every movement instantly becomes sound. Furthermore, playing conditions can be affected by such environmental factors as humidity and the size and shape of the performance space.

One performer who possessed the necessary ability (and then some) was a fellow Russian émigré named Clara Rockmore. Rockmore was absolutely without parallel in her small field. Gifted with perfect pitch and superhuman control, and possessing a fierce dedication to her art, she almost singlehandedly kept Professor Theremin’s original vision alive into the 1990s.


Please note that the use of Llewellyn Journal articles
is subject to certain Terms and Conditions

For thousands of years, people have used a wide variety of different ways to communicate with angels. Meditation, visualization, dowsing, crystals, prayers, and rituals are just some of the methods that have stood the test of time and are still used today. In recent years, angel cards have helped many people make contact with the angelic... read this article
Tarot: Group Dynamics Spread
Evolutionary Astrology: What the Moon's Nodes Mean in Your Chart
10 Creepy, Haunted Objects with a Hidden Past
Samhain Grave Minding Ritual
The Evolving Soul and Your Life Purpose: Connecting the Dots of Past Lives

Most recent posts:
A "Thank You" to BKS Iyengar
BKS Iyengar passed away today. In the midst of a frantic morning I heard the news and suddenly paused, realizing the great impact one person can...

Lucky in Lenormand
Rana George’s The Essential Lenormand is quickly gaining a reputation for being a very approachable guide to this fascinating system. Her decades...

Does the Old Magick Reject Psychology?
Readers, please enjoy this guest blog post by Aaron Leitch, author of several books, including Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires, The Angelical...





Easy Tarot Reading Easy Tarot Reading
The Process Revealed in Ten True Readings

By: Josephine Ellershaw
Price: $14.95 US,  $16.95 CAN
Llewellyn's 2015 Astrological Calendar Llewellyn's 2015 Astrological Calendar
82nd Edition of the World's Best Known, Most Trusted Astrology Calendar

By: Llewellyn
Price: $14.99 US,  $16.99 CAN
You Are the Answer You Are the Answer
Discovering and Fulfilling Your Soul's Purpose

By: Michael J Tamura
Price: $16.95 US,  $19.50 CAN
Dream Sight Dream Sight
A Dictionary and Guide for Interpreting Any Dream

By: Michael Lennox
Price: $19.95 US,  $22.95 CAN
Llewellyn's 2015 Witches' Datebook Llewellyn's 2015 Witches' Datebook
By: Llewellyn
Price: $10.99 US,  $12.50 CAN