The first true electronic instrument, the theremin is the product and namesake of an odd, Russian inventor. In its heyday it was the next big thing, until the Great Depression dampened enthusiasm. It is played not by touching but by placing the hands near its antennae to control pitch and volume. The sound is a sustained, eerie buzz, "a controlled radio squeal," as the liners to Strange Interlude put it, suitable mainly for 1950s science-fiction film scores. Dr. Samuel J. Hoffman made a name for himself recording just such soundtracks and early pop albums.

Dr. Hoffman got around, appearing even on the Mickey Mouse Club television program. Records with other theremin players are rare. The liners to a 10" LP (Sambas; Decca DL-5204; 1950) by Maximillian Bergere note that he "has a mastery of the Theremin, that magical instrument which combs music from the ether waves." It is not known whether there are recordings of Bergere playing theremin.

On the manufacturing side, Bob Moog got his start making professional theremin models before coming up with his famous synthesizer. And building a hobby version has long been a favorite project for electronics enthusiasts. On records the theremin was revived in the 1960s by Lothar and the Hand People and Ultimate Spinach as well as more recently.

Theremin LPs

5Les Baxter/Dr. Samuel Hoffman: Music Out of the Moon; Capitol H-2000; 1950
5Les Baxter/Dr. Samuel Hoffman: Perfume Set to Music; RCA Victor LPM-35; c.1952
7Ray Heindorf/Dr. Samuel Hoffman: Spellbound As Performed by Heindorf; Warner Bros. BS-1213; 1958
Dr. Samuel Hoffman: Lost Weekend ST
Dr. Samuel Hoffman: Spiral Staircase ST
6Billy May/Dr. Samuel Hoffman: Music for Peace of Mind; Capitol H-221; c.1950
Bernard Herrman: The Day the Earth Stood Still ST (wanted)
5Andre Montero & his Orchestra: Music for Heavenly Bodies; Omega OSL-4 (Paul Tanner, electro-theremin; Warren Baker arranged)
8Clara Rockmore, Theremin; Delos DEL-25437; 1981/1975 (classical; w/Nadia Reisenberg, piano; jacket: "Shirleigh & Robert Moog Present Clara Rockmore"; CD: "The Art of the Theremin"; Delos; 1987)
7Miklos Rosza: Spellbound ST 10"; REM 1 (spooky orchestral classic)
6Miklos Rosza/Frankenland State Orchestra of Nürnberg conducted by Erich Kloss: Spellbound Concerto/The Red House [ST] 10"; Capitol L-453 (nice jacket)

Partly Theremin LPs

7The 4J's Singing for Jesus; RCA Custom PR4M-7630 (4 girls in the "Musical Lindvall Family"; also theremin & Belgian water-glass intrumentals)
7Frank Comstock: Project Comstock--Music from Outer Space; Warner Bros. WS-1463; 1962 (w/Paul Tanner's theremin, Elliot Fisher' electric violin)
6Lew Davies & his Orchestra: Strange Interlude; Command RS-829-SD; 1961
7Esquivel: Exploring New Sounds in Hi-Fi; RCA Victor LPM-1978; 1958 ("Spellbound"; different arrangements than stereo version)
7Esquivel: Exploring New Sounds in Stereo; RCA Victor LSP-1978; 1958 ("Spellbound")
6Ferde Grofé/Dr. Samuel Hoffman: Rocketship X-M ST; Starlog SR-1000; 1977/1950 ("Theremin Solo")
6Bernard Herrman: Great Science Fiction Film Music; Decca/London CSL-1001; 1974 (The Day the Earth Stood Still-remake, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Fahrenheit 451, Psycho)
6Bernard Herrman: The Fantasy Film World of; Decca/London Phase 4 SP-44207; 1974 (The Day the Earth Stood Still-remake, Journey to the Center of the Earth, Fahrenheit 451, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad)
7Yusef Lateef: A Flat, G Flat & C; ABC/Impulse AS-9117; 1966 ("Sound Wave")
8Lothar & the Hand People; Capitol ST-2997 (SM-2997)
6Lothar & the Hand People: Space Hymn; Capitol ST-247
->Neil Norman -- see Space-Electronic
6Miklos Rozsa: Spellbound Concerto--Red House--Quo Vadis Suite; Capitol T-456; 1956 (remakes; A-side theremin)
6Raymond Scott & his Orchestra: On the Swinging Side; Sounds of Swing LP-107; rec. c.1950 ("Twilight Zone"; red vinyl; jacket green or white)
6Ultimate Spinach (Alan Lorber); MGM SE-4518

Theremin 45s

7Leslie Baxter w/Dr. Samuel J. Hoffman: Jet/Struttin' with Clayton; RCA Victor 47-3215
8The First Theremin Era: The Barnabas Theme from "Dark Shadows"/Sunset in Siberia; Epic 5-10440 (A-side space-funk/electronic horror)
5Dr. Samuel Hoffman w/Merrill Saunders: Moonlight Sonata/The Swan; Capitol F-1378
8Lothar & the Hand People: Rose Colored Glasses/L-O-V-E; Capitol 5874; 1967 (non-LP; B-side psychedelia has electronic sounds)

Theremin 78s

7Leslie Baxter w/Dr. Samuel J. Hoffman: Jet/Struttin' with Clayton; RCA Victor 20-3691
Mysterious Professor Theremin

Mysterious Professor Theremin

"Mysterious Professor Theremin" is a 12" x 9" original painting by Baltimore artist Alix Tobey Southwick. It was inspired by the excellent documentary "Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey" and features inventor Leon Theremin surrounded by virtuoso Clara Rockmore (with theremin) and his wife Lavinia (with terpsichordia, a dancer-driven theremin). Acquired August 10, 1997; reproduced by permission.

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