**NEW - May 20, 2009**
WIEGENLIED (by Richard Strauss)
This is a transcription of the WIEGENLIED by German composer Richard Strauss, arranged for theremin (the Moog Ethervox), accompanied by MIDI theremin (also the Ethervox). When I listened to Strauss' original arrangement of this song, written for soprano and piano but later arranged for orchestra by the composer, it seemed to me he was trying to get a “celestial” sound from the keyboard. Since the Moog Ethervox MIDI theremin can produce amazing cascades of notes, I thought it might be able to capture the sort of heavenly, dreamy, harp-like feeling that Strauss was looking for.
GYMNOPEDIE #1 (by Erik Satie)
The GYMNOPEDIE #1 by French composer Erik Satie (1866 - 1925) transcribed for theremin and piano. Satie led a rather sad and solitary life and, like many artists, did not live long enough to enjoy the eventual worldwide popularity of his music.
KADDISH FOR CLARA
Thereminist Clara Rockmore, if she were alive today, would have turned 98 on the 9th of March, 2009. As a personal tribute to this amazing woman I wrote a short “kaddish” for her. The word “kaddish” comes from the ancient Aramaic word for “holy” and in the Jewish tradition it is usually a prayer of mourning. I wrote this piece by improvising it in a single take for voice and keyboard. I then took my voice out and replaced it with the theremin (the 1929 RCA theremin that once belonged to Dr. Samuel Hoffman).
As I have said many times, I don't like what YouTube does to sound, so here is a stereo mp3 of the theremin performance of the Kaddish For Clara . It is less harsh and “tinny” sounding than the track on the video above, even though it is the same thing.
OVER THE RAINBOW
Here is a video of a theremin rendition of Harold Arlen's song, OVER THE RAINBOW, played on Dr. Samuel Hoffman's 1929 RCA theremin. This song was written for the 1939 MGM classic THE WIZARD OF OZ, and it has been a perennial favorite with audiences ever since. In fact, this song was number one on the Recording Industry Association of America's list of the top songs of the 20th century.
Since the sound on YouTube is notoriously compressed and tinny, here is a stereo mp3 version of the performance featured in the YouTube video above:
Over The Rainbow
MORGEN (Richard Strauss)
This is a theremin transcription of a song called MORGEN (Tomorrow) written by the German composer, Richard Strauss, in 1894. The original score is for voice and violin. Since the theremin can approximate a sound that is somewhere in between these two, and is neither one nor the other, this version of MORGEN contains some of the parts written for the violin and some written for the singer. I have tried to retain the spirit of the composition which, according to the words of the poem to which the music was written, is filled with the wonder and the hope of a new dawn.
Here is a stereo mp3 of the above video if you would like to hear higher quality sound.
The songs and shorter works of the French 20th century impressionist composers like Debussy, Ravel, Fauré, Gaubert and Satie, are a gold mine of pieces that can be easily transcribed for theremin. The compositions themselves are often inspired by Nature: animals, plants, flowers, brooks, rivers, even heavenly bodies. Perhaps that is why the theremin with its haunting ephemeral sound and “infinite breath” seems somehow appropriate for this kind of music.
Spanish composer MANUEL DE FALLA (1876 - 1946) wrote this haunting lullaby as part of his 1914 work, SEVEN SPANISH POPULAR SONGS. Although it was originally written for voice, transcriptions of this song have long been popular with violinists and other instrumentalists. The form and flavor of this piece are based on the Andalusian “cante hondo” which De Falla loved (the composer organized a festival of “cante hondo” in Granada, Spain, in 1922).
Dank sei dir, Herr
The 19th century German composer, Siegfried Ochs, arranged this piece of music and attributed it to Handel. Music historians, however, maintain that it was not written by Handel and the real composer of the theme remains a mystery. In spite of this it is a perennial favorite and has been recorded by a number of singers......and now by the theremin.
Indian Love Call
This old show-stopper was introduced by “America's singing sweethearts” Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy in the 1936 MGM film, ROSE MARIE. This song is so schmaltzy and over-the-top that it was responsible for destroying the Martians in the Tim Burton 1996 science fiction spoof, MARS ATTACKS! Apparently the alien invaders were so overwhelmed upon hearing this tune that it stopped them in their tracks. I performed this version on my Etherwave Pro theremin.
Petite ouverture à danser
Although many people are familiar with the “Gymnopédie #1” of French composer Eric Satie, few seem to know much about his other works. Satie (1866 - 1925) made his living as a piano player in bars and cafes in and around Paris. As a composer, he was way ahead of his time and much of his keyboard music can be transcribed very effectively for the theremin. Satie's music often sounds deceptively simple. This “Little Overture”, in the space of only about a minute and a half, uses 20 major and minor chords of the chromatic scale (in other words, all of them except four) while a haunting melody (for which I used the Moog Ethervox theremin) wanders beguilingly between them. One night in 1891, Satie was playing the piano in a bar in the section of Paris known as Montmartre, when he met a young musician on whose music he was to have an influence. The musician's name was Claude Debussy. (Debussy later orchestrated two of his friend Satie's compositions).
And Savitri Too Awoke...
I wrote this piece for a project based on the epic poem SAVITRI by the Hindu philosopher and author, Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950). This composition is written for MIDI theremin and surbahar and it is a musical representation of the moment in which Time is born and the mythical goddess Savitri awakes from the great cosmic Silence. The Moog Ethervox MIDI theremin (which is no longer in production) is actually two instruments in one. It is a traditional theremin, and it is also a gestural trigger device which can be used to control other electronic instruments that are able to receive digital MIDI (“Musical Instrument Digital Interface”) commands. In the case of this particular piece of music, I used the Ethervox (in its MIDI mode only) to play a ROLAND JV 2080 and provide a background for the deep and totally acoustic voice of the surbahar. Music of this sort is intended to create a mood, and I hope that people listening to it will be able to play it through speakers (or headphones) that are able to reproduce its frequency range. The built-in speakers on most computers are no bigger than a 50 cent piece, and cannot adequately reproduce the low frequencies on this mp3.
Here is a “pavane” written by Gabriel Fauré (1845 - 1924), the teacher of Maurice Ravel. I have arranged this piece for harp and two theremins. The French composer Debussy once said of the music of Gabriel Fauré, “The play of the graceful, fleeting lines described by Fauré's music may be compared to the gesture of a beautiful woman, without either suffering from the comparison”. It is interesting to note that Fauré was a student of the composer Camille Saint-Saëns.
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