Etheric Theremin Harmonic

1st exhibition: DAAD Galerie, Berlin, 2002

A midi-interactive Theremin is used as a device to control the speed of electric motors that resonate suspended thunder sheets (metal sheets). As the motors spin at different speeds, controlled by a viewer’s body-capacitance-proximity to the theremin, they induce various harmonic vibrations in the thunder sheets.

The sound imagery created by this piece may require the listener to examine the question of ‘opposites’ and ‘contradictions’ in sound and musical phenomena. The central conceptual concern is to use ‘primitive sounds’ (motors vibrating metal) to imitate ‘technological sounds’ (e.g. electronic samplers imitating natural sounds). The ‘technological sounds’ (sound samples) are not present in the installation but their acoustic images do reside in the perceptual memory of the modern listener. The Theremin is an historical electronic instrument that represents mystery (the tones are produced through the ‘ether’ without physical contact to the instrument) and old-school analog kitsch, as it was used on the soundtracks of many sci-fi movies of the 1950’s.

This piece imitates an audio system. Since the sounds are produced by computer control of a mechanical system, it is computer music, but there are no loudspeakers, therefore it cannot be an audio system. It merely resembles audio through imitation.

┬ęGordon Monahan 2002