Monday, July 30, 2007

The Magical Theremin

The Theremin finally made its way from Russia to America in 1928, and in the February 4, 1928 issue of The New Yorker they make a strange sort of mention of it...though I can't help thinking they were a little confused about what the Theremin actually did.
There is such a wistful flavor in the newest magic--the instrument that draws music from the ether at the wave of a hand. No one (unless it be makers of musical instruments) can fail to find a plaintive delight in this attempt to comb the infinite, to sift the sad vapor that wraps us. At a surprisingly early age we too realized that we were in the presence of a greater beauty than we could ever hope to express, that we were listening to loftier songs than we would ever be able to hurl back at the sky, even in our lustiest piping moments. At this same early age, we were aware that--for some reason or other--we were going to have to make the attempt. What a mad crochet when the Creator filled the airy regions with a sadness no one could ever distill with word, wand, or song--and then turned loose whole handfuls of mortals who knew they had to try!
Unless they're talking about some OTHER instrument, I don't believe that the Theremin, you know, actually distilled music out of the ether. Thought it probably looked like it did.


Eric Little said...

The only musical instrument you can play without physically touching it.

But that prose sounds like it was "distilled" from a much more fundament-al location--although since this was written during Prohibition, the writer might have had distilling on the brain.

As far as ether itself, people were still conducting experiments up until the 1930's to discover whether it existed, although I thought Michelson and Morley had pretty much put paid to the concept of luminiferous ether with their experiments on the speed of light.

Muffy St. Bernard said...

It's especially weird since it's in the "Talk of the Town" section. Stories there were either silly or ended in some sort of punchline. But the Theremin thing just sort of...drifts off into unexplored space.

Or rather, ether.

I hear that grain alcohol and Canada Dry can do that to a writer.