The monophonic Theremin or Termenvox, originally called Aetherphon was the world's first synthesizer. It was developed in 1919-20 in St.Petersburg by physicist and cellist Lev Sergeievitch Termen (1886-1993). Tones are produced without touching the instrument, by the movement of a players hands in varying distances from two antennas. According to the original concept, the right hand usually controls the pitch, while the left hand controls the volume. The tonal quality is similar to a human voice when humming or a violin or bassoon. Since the sound is continuous, it is difficult to make distinct separations between the notes. Thus, a glissando effect is inevitable.
Termin toured Europe with his new instrument and, in 1927, arrived in New York. In addition to a performances with the N.Y. Philharmonic and many recitals, he gave a private performance at the Ritz Hotel for a special audience which included Sergei Rachmaninoff, Fritz Kreisler and Arturo Toscanini.
In the '30s violinist Clara Rockmore started to play the Theremin as a student of Lev Termen. She has performed over a hundred concerts with major symphony orchestras and may have been the most perfect classical Theremin player.
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