Returning to my classical roots, I recently scored a classical interpretation of the "Colonizer" song from "Space And Other Things" with the help of Los Angeles vibraphonist/Composer, Chase Jackson. When you think about space travel what comes to mind? For me, it's the Theremin of course! The ethereal sounds of the instrument remind me of the eerie space movies I used to watch when I was a kid. The instrument has this far-out vocal quality that combines synthesized effects controlled by the movement of one's hands in the radio field. Perfect for a song about billionaires colonizing Mars!
The Theremin was invented and named after the Russian cellist/ physicist, Leon Theremin known for the Tesla coil and "Radio Watchman" device that housed circuitry that generated audio. While playing with the Watchman, Leon noticed that the pitch changed when he moved his hand around the device. He soon was mimicking parts from a piece called “The Swan” that he remembered from his cello repertoire, and the Theremin was born.
Leon combined his musical talents and engineering prowess showcasing his instrument and musical skills by playing public concerts across the globe. A consummate inventor, he created many noteworthy inventions, including the first electronic drum machine called the “rhythmicon” and the metal detector used at prisons and airports today.
Fleeing the US for tax and financial reasons, Theremin moved back to the Soviet Union, where he was sentenced to work in a secret lab in the Gulag at the Kolyma gold mines. While working at the mines, he invented the Buran eavesdropping system, which became the "Thing". A listening device carved in wood and hidden in a replica of the Great Seal of the United States.
He continued working for the KGB and with the Moscow Conservatory, until he was fired for giving an interview with a NY Times critic. He taught physics at Moscow State University and died in Moscow in 1993 at the peaceful age of 97.
Pamelia Stickney whom I befriended at a NAMM music show where she performed with her then-producer husband, Greg Kurstin is a renowned Theremin player known for her innovative work with David Byrne, Yoko Ono, and Robert Moog.
Hearing the intricate and eclectic sounds of the Theremin in a live setting was a mesmerizing experience. This inspired me to reach out to Pamelia many years later to record a Theremin version of the Colonizer song from Space And Other Things.
She agreed after listening to the song and learning about its story to push back inequality in our world. Pamelia is a talented musician and has spoken at TED and has appeared on SNL and in the 2004 documentary, “Moog”. She now resides in Vienna, where she was accepted to the prestigious composer's forum in Vienna located in Mitterstill, where Anton Webern (Father of Total Serialism) was shot and killed after WWII. I am honored to have her playing one of her last Theremin performances and looking forward to hearing her classical compositions in the future.
Adding Pamelia’s Theremin gives the song an out-of-this-world sound, a dedication to the adventurous and genius works of Leon Theremin and Pamelia Stickney.
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