Subvocalising and/or singing while playing theremin

Posted: 6/26/2019 1:35:10 PM
DreadVox

From: The East of Netherlands

Joined: 6/18/2019

Something both onlookers and myself noticed is that while I'm playing theremin I'm often moving my mouth and throat as if I'm whistling or overtone singing. Some people where asking if I was somehow producing the sound singing or whistling after seeing me play. When practicing I often start off singing or humming on a comfortable pitch and matching it on the theremin, though when I try to keep on using my voice while playing theremin it soon gets confusing. I think what's happening is that my mouth and throat are subconsciously matching the tones I'm playing or intending to play with the formants/resonances that I use while overtone singing, playing jawsharp, yidaki (didjeridu), harmonica/melodica and bamboo flute.
Maybe whith plenty of practice it would be possible to use voice and theremin at the same time, first keeping a steady tone with one and varying the other, second moving simultaneously and third most challenging doing different but harmonious voices simultaneously. For now with a looper (Boss RC-202) I can combine voice (and other instruments) with theremin by alternating/overdubbing.

At the moment I'm not sure whether the subconscious subvocalising I tend to do while playing theremin is helpful or detrimental to my playing in the long run, on the one hand the subvocalising/formant matching may give me a connection to instruments/techniques I have been using in music and may give some feedback of feeling the resonances of the theremin sound as a resonance match in my mouth/throat and in that way may enhance the hand-hearing biofeedback loop with the tunable formant filters the mouth/tongue/throat function as. On the other hand it may be inefficient waste of energy/tension. I would be interested in the perspectives and experiences of other theremin players regarding subvocalising while playing and/or combining voice/singing with theremin and the feasibility of doing both simultaneously (one especially tricky part being that for singing there tends to be more body movement needed to do with breathing which must be somehow compensated with respect to body and hand position in the pitch field).


Posted: 6/26/2019 6:49:50 PM
JPascal

From: Berlin Germany

Joined: 4/27/2016

Maybe German thereminist Carolina Eyck had similar experiences. She is now touring with a solo program Theremin & Voice: "By singing without lyrics, voice and theremin often merge symbiotically and can no longer be distinguished from each other. The voice gives the theremin something human, the theremin her voice something unapproachable."

Posted: 6/29/2019 12:55:32 AM
DreadVox

From: The East of Netherlands

Joined: 6/18/2019

I did go to a concert and workshop by Carolina Eyck at the Muziekhuis in Amsterdam last month and have been watching many of her videos on YouTube and it appears she is mostly alternating voice and theremin and it is the Loop Station which combines the two. Dorit Chrysler does some slight overlapping between singing and theremin from time to time. I did just find a video by Peter Pringle which has parts of successful simultaneous singing, even with lyrics/words, and theremin playing:

Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me - Peter Pringle

I haven't noticed any other theremin players on Youtube videos yet who appear to do 'silent singing'/subvocalising while playing theremin.

I'm making some progress practicing humming and playing theremin simultaneously, both keeping the humming on a steady pitch and play intervals over it on the theremin and the other way round as well as humming and playing the same melodic lines together. So a next thing would be to practice singing (without lyrics) with varying formants/timbres of the voice involved, and to try to add humming and then singing to the traditional and children's song melodies that I'm practicing on the theremin as part of my basic excercises and try to add some accompanying droning/interval stepping/doubling the melody line while singing mantras/kirtan.

Posted: 6/30/2019 8:04:31 PM
JPascal

From: Berlin Germany

Joined: 4/27/2016

Oh yes, the caraoke version of Sir John's masterpiece is extraordinary! But you can see that either the voice or the theremin have a constant pitch in the phrases that they play together. I think it's extremely difficult to control both due to the body movements. 

Posted: 6/30/2019 9:32:07 PM
oldtemecula

From: 60 Miles North of San Diego, CA

Joined: 10/1/2014


DreadVox what I think you mention can be seen in places here by one of the great NY theremin artists. My guess is an expensive analog processor is shaping the sound developed through the hands of a very good musician. I like this because the sound is fluid, almost human. This is where techniques that give up the freedom of playing and think it must be pitch perfect ruin the theremin expression.

This was posted on LEVNET by Rob, every now and then I peek. 

Christopher   


Posted: 7/1/2019 4:27:27 AM
DreadVox

From: The East of Netherlands

Joined: 6/18/2019

JPascal: Yes, I noticed that either voice or theremin keeps a steady tone when combined together, and it's pretty challenging. Playing and singing the same melody lines would be about the same level of difficulty, singing and playing different harmonizing melody lines will be highly challenging and will need a lot of practice to get to an acceptable level.

Christopher: Thanks, that is precisely what I meant with subvocalising, it does look and sound like it's not detrimental to his playing which does sound excellent to me. Interesting to see him playing a theremin where the volume electrode/plate appears to be enclosed within the box and that has no visible 'loop antenna'. I do tend to think that to make a theremin sing and sound good is for the largest part in the complex analog processor that are the the hands with their connected muscles, nerves and connected parts of the brains. The player is an important part of the instrument, becoming part(s) of the electronic circuit. The sound as shaped by the player can improve by practicing, and for a part it will have and keep one's own personal 'handwriting' character which is highly personal/individual. The whole electro-acoustic signal chain also is a part of the whole instrument, timbre, waveform and brightness adjustments, effects and amplification chain, loudspeaker, room acoustics, influences and colors the final audible sound which should be taken into acount, but given a reasonably playable instrument, amplifier and loudspeaker, most of the sound is almost literally in the hands of the thereminist.
 

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