The Theremin is an electronic musical instrument played by waving your
hands in the air. It's was often used in old horror flicks.
The folks at Vanderbilt Cognitive Robotics Lab have created a robot to
perform the Theremin automatically.
One of my favorite swirling brain movies, The Forbidden
Planet, which incidentally features Robbie the robot, has gobs of Theremin music. So, if you
don't know what Theremin music sounds like, rent the movie and crank
the volume and enjoy 50's sci-fi music at it's best!
Or, here's some samples that your can listen to on Amazon.
A wonderful documentary on Leon Theremin's life was made a few years
While often used for shock effect in the music of science fiction (one
was used for the title sequence in the old Star Trek episodes), the
Theremin was capable of some very beautiful music. The wavering,
voicelike quality was quite haunting, but few serious musicians took up
the instrument, feeling it was a bit unsophisticated by musical
standards. It took an expert to extract the very subtle effects that
the instrument was capable of.
Bob Moog, of synthesizer fame, now produces Theremins.
has built his own
Theremin-playing robot, Lev
which will be on display at this July's ArtBots
show in NYC. Alas, I'm going to
be out of town...