Science on Screen: “Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey”


Science on Screen at the Coolidge Corner Theatre delves into electronic music with a screening of THEREMIN: AN ELECTRONIC ODYSSEY, the 1994 documentary about the unusual electronic instrument and the strange life of its inventor and namesake Leon Theremin, on Monday, Jan 19, 2009 at 7:00 p.m. Before the film, MIT Professor of Music and Media Tod Machover will discuss his own pioneering work as a composer and inventor of new technologies for music. This program will include Q&A and a short performance by thereminist Dalit Hadass Warshaw.

Leon Theremin made music as strange as the life he lived. In 1918, the Russian-born scientist invented a musical instrument unlike any the world had seen before: one that uses electronic oscillation to produce its sound and is played entirely without human contact. Theremin toured the United States and Europe giving public recitals, and became the toast of New York City’s artists and intellectuals during the roaring ’20s. But in 1938, at the height of his promising career in the U.S., Theremin mysteriously disappeared.

Over the decades, the ethereal, otherworldly sounds of the theremin became the backdrop to scores of science fiction and horror films (particularly in the ‘50s), and have inspired numerous musicians, from the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson to synthesizer pioneer Robert Moog.

While there have been no KGB abductions in his background (at least not that we know of), Tod Machover is himself a remarkable figure. He has pioneered many new technologies for music, most notably his Hyperinstruments that use smart computers to augment musical expression and creativity. He has designed Hyperinstruments for some of the world’s greatest musicians, from Yo-Yo Ma to Prince, as well as for the general public and for children. He and his team also created the interface for the video-game sensation Guitar Hero.

Machover is widely recognized as one of the most significant and innovative composers of his generation. His music has been acclaimed for breaking traditional artistic and cultural boundaries, offering a unique synthesis of acoustic and electronic sound. Machover’s compositions have been commissioned and performed by many of the world’s most prestigious ensembles and soloists.

With Science on Screen, the Coolidge presents a feature film or documentary with a basis in science, paired with exciting introductions by notable scientific figures. This monthly series is co-presented by The Museum of Science and New Scientist magazine.

Science on Screen programs are $9.75 regular admission or $7.75 for students, seniors, and Museum of Science members. Coolidge Corner Theatre members get free admission to these shows. Tickets are available in advance at the box office, located at 290 Harvard Street in Brookline, or on-line at www.coolidgeorg/showtimes

For more details, visit or call 617/734-2500. Upcoming shows include “Groundhog Day” on Feb. 2 with science historian Peter Galison and on March 2, the 1967 classic “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” with social psychologist Mahzarin R. Banaji.

Posted by Joseph, under For: Science Hobbyists  |  Date: December 25, 2008
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One Response to “Science on Screen: “Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey””

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