College lab project for Theremin

Posted: 7/30/2011 1:12:00 AM
Jeff S

From: N.E. Ohio

Joined: 2/14/2005

Well, perhaps there is a gestural controller you can use to trigger piano and drum sounds for you.

Air Piano (
Posted: 7/31/2011 7:23:24 AM

From: Canada

Joined: 8/1/2008

Some of the really cool gestural triggers are far more difficult to play than the instruments they emulate. The laser harp is an example of how the technology itself, rather than the music it is designed to create, becomes the show. It's much harder to play TWINKLE TWINKLE LITTLE STAR on a laser harp than it is on a keyboard but the laser harp is SPECTACULAR even when viewed from the cheap seats in a stadium the size of Texas.

Efficiency and control have been sacrificed on the altar of SPLASH.

The "Air Piano" is a great novelty, but it has no advantages for the serious musician. From the standpoint of someone in a live audience, it is not particularly interesting to watch and the gestures of the "air pianist" are not readily associated with what listeners are hearing.

I have found this is also true of the Ethervox MIDI theremin. It can trigger amazing sounds but a casual audience that doesn't know anything about the science involved, doesn't associate those sounds with you waving your hands in the air because there is a huge, invisible, technical gulf between what they are seeing and what they are hearing.

The theremin is gestural but it is a musical instrument in the traditional sense because it creates a raw sound of its own. When people see you play it, they can easily associate what they see with what they hear. If you use the gestural technique of the theremin to trigger a MIDI signal so that a computer or some other electronic device can play the sound of the Berlin Philharmonic, the disconnect is so great for uninitiated audiences that you might as well be playing a CD.

Nobody loves the technology more than I do but as electronic musicians we need to be aware that form can sometimes triumph over content. What delights us with the elephant ballet is not the beauty of the dance but the fact that the great beasts can do it at all! The novelty will only last a few minutes. If you try to get the pachyderms to perform all four acts of SWAN LAKE, your audience is going to go for popcorn and a pee.

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