Accompanying the radio (or CD player, or iPod, or victrola...)

Posted: 6/17/2007 5:04:45 AM

From: Oxnard, CA

Joined: 6/14/2007

I should really not attempt to write this early in the morning, because I'm sure at some point my entire train of thought will become hopelessly lost. But, I am going to anyway.

I've discovered that I can plug my iPod into my amp right next to my theremin...

Now, I don't really have any intention of playing professionally someday - I think that playing in coffee shops might be fun at some point, but for now, I am playing this thing purely for my own enjoyment. If I was very good, that might be selfish, but at this point, it's really for the good of mankind.

I play the piano, with a decent amount of success, mostly by ear. For some reason, I never picked up on accompanying another player, or accompanying the radio (or what-have-you). It was all very much "I want to learn how to play this, and play it on my own."

I find that with the theremin, it's very much the opposite. And perhaps it's because I am just starting out and therefore not terribly good at it - I.E. the question of confidence - having a backup band to do most of the work.

Or perhaps... and this is what I FEEL instead of THINK...

Musicians that I have loved for years, music that has had a truly profound effect on me - Jean-Michel Jarre, Mike Oldfield, The Beatles, John Williams, Nick Drake, Philip Glass, etc... all of this which I have listened to ad infinitum, over and over again, which has remained unchanged, the same experience, the same song, I can finally add to it. Something subtle, something unusual, that most people will never think to add. And it will never be the same once - it will always sound a little different, never permanent, always a unique (and sometimes comically off-key) expression.

So, speaking from a PURELY emotional point of view (which is nearly always my point of view, as technique tires me), would you rather play alone, or play with accompaniment - whether it be a living breathing human being, or your radio?

If you enjoy the company, what music is your favorite to play with? What gets your gears going? What gets you riled up? What inspires you?

If not, elaborate! Does it impede your creativity? Cause you to be off-key?

Do you find that you feel the same way with playing other instruments as well?
Posted: 6/17/2007 6:31:34 AM
Charlie D

From: England

Joined: 2/28/2005

Anything slow and beautiful really. Sad pieces (particularly sad baroque pieces by guys like Pergolesi, Bach and Purcell) tend to work the best, I think.

Play music *you* like, but test your ideas in public performance. Get feedback.
Posted: 6/17/2007 6:16:11 PM

From: Oxnard, CA

Joined: 6/14/2007

When I get a little better at it, I would love to =)

Slow pieces are really quite beautiful on the theremin - when I bought my violin a couple of years back, I had intended on emulating that slow, mournful sound on it. Never managed to do very well at it, I seem to enjoy getting those sounds out of my theremin much more.
Posted: 6/17/2007 7:33:17 PM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

Pink Floyd - Mungo Park of these forums sent me a version of The Great Gig In The Sky without a vocal track some time ago - that's quite a lot of fun to improvise over - really gave me quite an appreciation of just how good the singer is!

Other than that I imagine most of Ummagumma would be fun to improvise over, but my record player and LP collection is in a different room to my theremin.

Most of my Philip Glass is on LP too, but if I were to try anything it would probably be Music In 12 Parts, 1 and 2, mostly because it is so sparse.

Scanning your list on mySpace, I'd probably go for Autobahn and Hergest Ridge as well.

I didn't notice Brian Eno there. Shame on you! It could be kind of cool just drifting along to his Ambient stuff.

Mostly I play a cappella, or with effects, and I decided early on that I was not intent on playing other people's compositions, or with other instruments that were tuned to a specific set of notes, so intonation is not so much of an issue for me.

I do have a lot of fun with my delay boxes and pitch shifters - they're all the accompaniment I need.

The most fun is playing along with other thereminists, but the opportunity rarely presents itself.

Posted: 6/17/2007 8:31:05 PM

From: Oxnard, CA

Joined: 6/14/2007

Ooooh, I'll have to take a look around for that song without a vocal track... that song gives me the chills. Dark Side of the Moon is now definitely on my list of next things to theremin to... Ummagumma is a gold min.

I've been over the first half of Hergest Ridge, and wow... just wow. It felt great. That first half is really powerful, the buildup is quite intense. Playing with Autobahn is just fun as all get out :]

As for Brian Eno, I don't have much exposure to his music. I have My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, which he did with David Byrne, but that's the extent of my relationship with him. Anything you would suggest in particular?

Playing with another thereminist, in person, must be a great experience. I get the chills just thinking about it! It's one of the few lamentable things about the instrument - after playing the piano for so long, I miss having more than one note going on at the same time.

However, I imagine that effects boxes would alleviate some of that!
Posted: 6/17/2007 9:10:56 PM
Thomas Grillo

From: Jackson Mississippi

Joined: 8/13/2006

I agree. My theremin seems much more rewarding than my violin. I started out playing without accompaniment, but it was rightfully pointed out that I had intonation problems playing like that. Now, I actually miss the accompaniment. I like playing the slow, sad stuff by Rochmaninoff, Holst, and others. The sadder, the better. Sometimes I like a challenging fast paced work.
Posted: 6/17/2007 11:03:18 PM

From: Oxnard, CA

Joined: 6/14/2007


Did you find that playing with accompaniment made you lazy with your pitch/fingering at all? Even if it gives you problems... if you enjoy it, don't forget to indulge now and again =)

Seems like an interesting thread amongst thereminists - the slow, sad music. It just translates SO well to the theremin.
Posted: 6/17/2007 11:44:06 PM
Thomas Grillo

From: Jackson Mississippi

Joined: 8/13/2006

Actually, I find that accompaniment keeps me on my toes, and forces me to keep up with both tempo, and intonation, and later, when I do play solo, I'm in much better condition to stay a little more in tune. You do have to be carefull not to lean on the accompaniment, and depend on them which is easy to do when starting an unfamiliar work. But, after 30 years of singing in opera, and barbershop choruses, I've pretty well been trained not to do that as much. In my case, I have no choice but to use accompaniment to learn works, as I'm legally blind.

I really enjoy playing with accompaniment now, especially sinse I'm helping to score the music for a motion picture.
Posted: 6/18/2007 7:58:07 AM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

[i]As for Brian Eno, I don't have much exposure to his music. [...] Anything you would suggest in particular?[/i]

That's a tough one - he's one of the few artists who's consistently brilliant and varies dramatically throughout his career.

You probably have been indirectly exposed to his music - so many bands cite his as a major influence. And he crops up quite regularly as background for science and arts documentaries. (Well, in the UK he does. Maybe on BBC America or PBS.)

For theremining to, as I said - anything with "Ambient" in the title, but for general listening I'd start at the beginning of his solo career and follow his development from album to album. So for me at least it would have to be Here Come The Warm Jets, which is just packed with energy and invention and evil, evil lyrics. He is the Dr. Evil of lyrics.

"I'm going to write a pop song."

"An [i]evil[/i] pop song?"

When I listened to it the first time the predominant reaction all the way through was "oh my giddy aunt, he's doing it all wrong - it shouldn't work, it really should not work this well, it's just so wrong in so many ways!"

But actually it is tight.

And still all wrong.

And fun.
Posted: 6/18/2007 9:28:35 AM

From: Kingston, NY

Joined: 2/13/2005

Theres a rep. page here

I think there's a couple forum threads too.
I'll take a look, but
try the [b]search[/b],,
limited to TW too.
Sometimes you'll find gems from past posts as well.


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