Saturday, September 5, 2009

What Are The Chances?

Do you know what a theremin is? I didn't until this week, when I heard a reference to the obscure instrument not once, not twice, but THREE different times!

In case you're as unfamiliar with the instrument as I was, a theremin is one of the first electronic instruments, invented in the 1920s. It produces the eerie flying saucer sound effect in 1950s B-movies, and is the high-pitched electronic effect in the chorus of the song Good Vibrations by the Beach Boys. According to Wikipedia:
[it] consists of two metal antennas which sense the position of the player's hands and control oscillators for frequency with one hand, and amplitude (volume) with the other. The electric signals from the theremin are amplified and sent to a loudspeaker.
Tuesday night was the first time I'd heard of the instrument. There was a story on KWMU (our local NPR station) about Imogen Heap, a musician that uses a lot of social networking sites to help her write her songs. She said that based on a tweet from one of her fans she added a theremin to one of the songs on her new album. The story was interesting, but uneventful.

The next day I read an update from one of my Facebook friends, who wrote (tongue in cheek) that "it should be required by law to include, in every folk album henceforth released, a theremin." I was sure he said that because he had heard the radio broadcast, but turns out he had not. I passed a link to the story on to him, and thought how strange it was that two people were independently thinking about the same little-known topic.

This afternoon I was driving home from the store, again listening to KWMU. The show this time was Studio 360, and during a station identification break the announcer told me to stay tuned because [playing eerie 50s sci-fi music] they were going to be discussing the theremin later in the show. Holy cow! I made it home before the segment came on, so I rushed in, turned the radio on, and tuned it to the station. Sure enough, about ten minutes later Kurt Andersen, the host of the show, was talking with Pamelia Kurstin, a theremin virtuoso:

I wonder if the third time is the charm and the theremin will now drop off my radar, or if I should continue to be on the lookout.

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