“And now for your viewing an listening pleasure, a recital on the Theremin…” What the deuce is a Theremin? I hear at least a few of you ask, and the answer not a cholesterol medication, but a very strange musical instrument named after its Russian inventor Léon Theremin. Supposedly the only known instrument that is played without touching it – I gave it some thought while the adverts were on and couldn’t come up with another – it’s the go-to apparatus for whenever a spooky, the-aliens-have-landed sound is needed. Portishead’s Mysterons had a memorable Theremin-like sound, and for those of an older vintage, dig out your Led Zep vinyl and listen carefully to Whole Lotta Love. The player operates the instrument by moving their hands around two antennas, one for pitch and one for amplitude, and the equipment was a big seller for synth kings Moog in the days of analogue.
That entirely necessary pre-amble leads us to Judith Charles Gallery in New York, where the talented François Chambard (whose work we’ve previously drooled over; here and here) has designed a collection of custom-built sculptural Theremins that are the stars of Odd Harmonics, a show put together in collaboration with Butterscotch Records and Moog Music. The Chambard Theremins are both innovative and at the same time a beautiful throwback – check out Eeboo, with its echoes of Ray Harryhausen’s Bubo the mechanical owl from Clash of the Titans. There is a programme of live performance events lined up for this weekend (1-3 November) including one for the kids on Sunday, and what better activity for Hallowe’en weekend than some eerie electronic vibes? Theremins are not all about B-movie sound effects though. Shostakovich included parts for Theremins in several of his works, and classical Thereminists exist to this day (way to carve out a niche).
Virtuoso Carolina Eyck is visiting with pianist Christopher Tarnow on Saturday, and works by artist Cassandra C Jones and painter Tomory Dodge, who have featured on Butterscotch releases, round out a brilliantly unusual multi-disciplinary event. The exhibition ends on 16 November.