Lev Termen did not create the theremin. . .

Posted: 4/27/2009 8:23:27 PM

From: Jax, FL

Joined: 2/14/2005

The same could be said for any invention or discovery from cave painting to html.

Things are often invented/discovered by more than one person at the same time. When it is time for something to come along it will come...
Posted: 4/28/2009 12:45:41 AM
RS Theremin

From: 60 mi. N of San Diego CA

Joined: 2/15/2005

The word “divine” used as an adjective means “extremely good” though I believe there are times in life when personal creativity briefly touches enlightenment.

Lev Termen is rightfully the inventor of the theremin.

RS Theremin
Posted: 4/28/2009 7:08:03 AM

From: Canada

Joined: 8/1/2008

There were two people we know of who were working on the invention of a heterodyne musical instrument in the years immediately following World War I: Lev Termen and Maurice Martenot.

In the early days of the prototypes that were to eventually develop into the theremin and the ondes, the differences between the two instruments were not so clear cut.

The earliest theremin prototype had no volume antenna (volume was controlled by a foot pedal) and the earliest ondes had no keyboard (pitch was played "a distance" by hand gestures).

There was no contact between Termen and Martenot prior to the presentation of their respective instruments in 1927 at the Paris opera. The conductor Leopold Stokowski attempted to get the two of them together in the 1930's when Martenot visited America but, not surprisingly, nothing came of the encounter. The two men were competitors, not colleagues!

Like most inventions, the theremin and the ondes did not just appear miraculously out of nowhere. They were the natural result of the coming together of a number of earlier discoveries, the most important of which was probably the radion tube.

The ondes Martenot has largely disappeared. It is extremely expensive to make and it has been replaced by the far more versatile (not to mention polyphonic) modern keyboard synthesizer.

The theremin has survived because it is comparatively cheap to manufacture and it has tremendous appeal for the musical hobbyist and gadgeteer. It has never attracted significant numbers of professional career musicians because you cannot make a living playing it. Learning to master the theremin requires a tremendous investment of time and energy and it is limited in regard to what can be performed on it.

The theremin is a one-trick pony but the trick, when it is successfully pulled off, is stunning!

Posted: 4/28/2009 1:12:54 PM
Brian R

From: Somerville, MA

Joined: 10/7/2005

[i]nerve racking maniacal cacophonies of a lunatic swing band[/i]

Something for us all to aspire to!

Posted: 4/28/2009 1:53:03 PM

From: Eastleigh, Hampshire, U.K. ................................... Fred Mundell. ................................... Electronics Engineer. (Primarily Analogue) .. CV Synths 1974-1980 .. Theremin developer 2007 to present .. soon to be Developing / Trading as WaveCrafter.com . ...................................

Joined: 12/7/2007

[i]"Lee's got you beat, Fred! I count 27 knobs on that audion piano! Wonder what all they did?" - Don [/i]

Don, I think you will find that each key probably required individual tuning.. hence the proliferation of knobs!

This is the main problem with polyphonic instruments where each note has its own independent tone source - tuning is a nightmare! - The big advantage of such designs is that every tone source is free-phase with respect to the others.. I have seen arguments claiming that we are not highly sensitive to phase relationships of tones, but I disagree... To me, free-phase polyphonic instruments sound far more pleasant.

All polyphonic instruments based on digital generation of tones have the phases of their notes locked together in some way - a lot is done to obscure this on higher end instruments - but the fact remains... there is a master oscillator from which everything is sourced.

This is where voltage controlled polyphonic instruments win hands down - one does not need a tone source per note (the available tone modules are assigned to notes being played at any given time) and each tone source is completely independent from the others.

Lee De Forest certainly had some interesting ideas! - Looking over some of the stuff on the web though, he certainly had an ego to match everything he achieved! ...

Posted: 4/28/2009 7:54:32 PM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

My understanding or the Audion Piano is that there was one beat frequency oscillator for each octave.

"[i]To me, free-phase polyphonic instruments sound far more pleasant[/i]"

Is it possible that there is a mechanism that explains this without requiring the ear to perceive phase directly.

I am thinking that the varying frequency instabilities in tones generated by two free-running oscillators could cause constructive and destructive interference between partials present in both tones - which would not occur if the tones were phase locked.

Does that make sense?

Posted: 4/28/2009 11:52:54 PM

From: Richmond Hill, Georgia

Joined: 9/18/2005

Lee Deforest was also a crook. Check out his bio at http://www.neidlinger.us/deforest.pdf

He invented lots of things he didn't.....

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