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Even if you donât know what a theremin is, youâve almost certainly heard it. The futuristic instrument â played by carefully gesturing with your hands in the air â has been a staple of old sci-fi movies and used to add an air of mystery in popular music.Â This year the instrument is celebrating its 100th anniversary, so synthesizer giant Moog is honoring it by making, well, a veryÂ fancy theremin.
Itâs called the Claravox Centennial, after Clara Rockmore, one of historyâs best theremin playersÂ â and one who helped showed the instrument could be used for more than creepy music. You can watch her perform here:
For those not familiar, the theremin is essentially a musical proximity sensor in which one antenna controls pitch and the other controls volume. The instrument creates an electrical field that is altered depending on how close your hands are to the instrument. This allows for an expressive range of sounds, despite the instrumentâs fundamental tone resembling a simple sine wave.Â As one of the first electronic instruments, itâs the precursor to so many sounds present in modern music.
The Claravox Centennial pays homage to thereminâs history with a retrofuturistic design that includes brass antennae, panels draped in cloth, and a walnut cabinet. Thereâs also a custom stand that matches the aesthetic.
The new theremin allows players to switch between traditional circuit and DSP modes that allow forÂ sine, triangle, saw, and wavetable oscillators, as well as a variety of scales, quantization, and assignable octave ranges. Thereâs analog wave-shaping and BBD (bucked brigade device) delay as well. Other features includeÂ DIN MIDI, USB, and CV inputs and outputs, buttons to assign and storage presets, and pitch quantization to help get new players acquainted. It also has dedicated software for further customizing the sound.Â
For an idea of how the Claravox Centennial itself sounds, hereâs a beautiful performance of Claire de Lune byÂ GrÃ©goire Blanc and Orane Donnadieu showing off the new instrument in action:
The original Moog synthesizer can trace its creation back to the theremin, so it holds a special place in the companyâs lineup. The Claravox Centennial will retail for $1,499, which isnât cheap, but hardly exorbitant for a professional instrument. Theremin players can pre-order the instrument today, and units will begin shipping in December.
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Published October 22, 2020 — 22:35 UTC
October 22, 2020 — 22:35 UTC
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Theremin, Moog Music, Moog synthesizer, Shirleigh Moog, Robert Moog, Electronic music
World news – CA – Moog built a super-fancy theremin to celebrate the instrumentâs 100th birthday