Theremin arrived - DOA!

Posted: 8/29/2007 6:38:35 PM

From: Kingston, NY

Joined: 2/13/2005

OK excelent discussion, don't know if this is on the button, just my 2Cents.

It's good that it's not your first instrument.
The simplicity of the interface of the theremin can make you feel adrift if you've never played any musical insturment, or sung seriously before.
But it is not impossible and is not the hardest thing on the planet to play.

Yeah, intonation, the accuracy of the notes, is usually the first challenge. If you can hear you're off then you can work on it.
Some folks have other challenges: reproducability of something that came out well, "fingering" or positioning for sections of a piece, particular kinds of patterns or pitch jumps, balance after playing several songs. The theremin reveals a lot and you must know yourself and be free of fear while in the field, it'll show.

No matter what your performance objectives, melodic or experimental, spending time in the playing field every day is important.

Every Day.

You need to learn in your body, ear, and mind what techniques you need to produce the musical goal and how every nuance of your body impacts the sound itself so you can call on them without thinking.
It's a remarkably rewarding instrument to study.
Posted: 8/29/2007 7:07:57 PM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

I think the big red button refers to an occupational hazard of playing classical theremin - acute pitch sensitivity, where, in quest of the perfect pitch one trains one's ear to such a degree that one becomes unable to shrug off the occasional bum note as it is like the scraping of expanded polystyrene on glass, or fingernails down a blackboard to a sufferer. With the right personality this can border on an obsession, and you really don't want to set them off on the subject of intonation - especially when you suffer from the opposite disorder - Cowell Syndrome - the unwavering and patently false conviction that you have good pitch - or if you play a genre of music where precise intonation is not quite such a big deal. Good enough for rock and roll, as they say.

I would be interested to know the non-traditional manner in which your instrument is to be played.
Posted: 8/29/2007 7:10:00 PM

From: Kingston, NY

Joined: 2/13/2005

right on GC
I have yet to see anyone die from a wrong note.
Posted: 8/29/2007 11:50:31 PM

From: St Paul, MN

Joined: 8/29/2007

I live by the Thelonious Monk theory... If you play a wrong note, hit it again maybe someone will notice!
Posted: 8/30/2007 7:40:00 AM

From: Brussels, Belgium

Joined: 8/27/2007

in what sense 'hit it again' :D
Correctly hitting it again or hitting it again pretending it's some kind of blue note
Posted: 8/30/2007 9:11:08 AM

From: Bristol, United Kingdom

Joined: 12/30/2006

Yeah, Gordon's got the gist of what I was saying.

The truth is (and I'm sure as you're an MT lecturer I don't have to tell you this) that when the playing of acoustic instruments intensifies, the pitch changes slightly. My harmonium goes slightly sharp if you pump it harder, guitars go slightly sharp if you pluck them harder. You might only notice the sharpness if you had very good sense of pitch, but it's there, and it's something that accentuates the note. There are a lot (read: a few) of Thereminists who think that music loses its beauty (or possibly becomes less musical in itself) due to even slight pitch discrepancies. If you want to be spoken to like a child by people who are so committed to this idea that they can't actually listen to most music, ask them a question about intonation.
Posted: 8/30/2007 1:40:36 PM

From: Kingston, NY

Joined: 2/13/2005

gosh golly I think I need to clarify, sorry all.

Of course I believe intonation is important,
in any style you have to be able to make the sound you want.
And I work on it very hard.

My last comment is not to say we shouldn't try or it does not matter at all.

I assume the deepest respect and effort on the part of a thereminist to play any piece in any style accurately.
I assume that bad musicianship will reveal itself by itself and do not worry about it or expect it.
I would never expect a musician would intentionally wish to play a piece without caring about mastering it and performing it accurately.
I believe this applies to all forms regardless of whether they are rehearsed, written down or improvised. You naturally want to play what you hear in your head and share it as you know it, and that requires you to know how to make the needed sounds happen.

I'm addressing the feeling that if you do not have perfect pitch and do not play every note absolutely perfectly you have not, should not, and cannot make music.
Rather, once a piece is mastered the job is to perform it not to simply iterate it.
This involves interpretation, passion, and the moment at hand.
And those perfect note expectations nagging in a player's head get in the way of the performance
and exacerbate stage fright.

Sorry again for assuming, and trying to be concise.

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