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A Portrait of Mischa Tulin

Mischa Tulin 3D
Mischa Tulin playing his reconstructed RCA theremin.

Mischa Tulin landed in New York, coming from near St. Petersburg, Russia, just at the onset of the Russian Revolution circa 1917. His musical forte was the piano and composition. While working for RCA, he was sent to Russia to persuade Prof. Theremin to come to the U.S. where RCA would benefit from his electronic genius. So it was around then, that he was introduced to the theremin.

Tulin RCA Theremin front
Front of Mischa Tulin's RCA theremin.

The RCA Theremin Serial No. 200132 that was once owned and played by Mischa Tulin has been found.

Mr. Tulin was a Russian piano virtuoso and composer. In 1930 at the suggestion of Leon Theremin he took up the study of the Theremin. Mr. Tulin performed in Springfield, MA. and Boston MA. on radio stations WBZ and WBZA to promote the Theremin instrument.

Tulin RCA Theremin internals
Internals of Mischa Tulin's RCA theremin.

There is a story circulating about the theremin being in a fire in Saudi Arabia prior to 1953. Mr. Tulin shared his building with an Italian cabinet-maker, a real craftsman who custom-made some furniture for their home. Maybe that's how the new cabinet was built with the intricate triangular inlay. The Theremin was made to separate from the legs for portability. Sadly the legs are missing. They may have been used as a small table.

Detail of Mischa Tulin's RCA theremin cabinet.
Detail of Mischa Tulin's RCA theremin cabinet.

Also in the early fifties, Mischa appeared on the Arthur Godfrey Talent Scout show; played Danny Boy on the theremin, finished fourth (last), but received a try-out to play the background music for an upcoming Broadway play, starring Helen Hayes, Jules Munchin, Ernest Borgnine, Fred Gwynne, Enid Markey, Brandon deWilde, and Iggie Wolfington. He got the role, and travelled with the play for a little bit, commuted from Boston to New York for a year or so on a daily basis, and finally made a tape of the music for the rest of the play's run. For all of his life, he gave much of his time giving free concerts and lectures.

Detail of Mischa Tulin's RCA theremin cabinet 02.
Detail of Mischa Tulin's RCA theremin cabinet.

Mischa died in a fire at his place of business in 1958, and his pianist wife Helen followed him five years later, dying of leukemia.

This RCA Theremin had its original pitch antenna twisted and bent. It had been replaced with an exact duplicate that may have come from the original production run. The Volume antennas look to have been from the original straight stock and the image shows a progression of attempts to duplicate the correct curve. The material, color, plating, construction and base of these volume antennas are the same as the actual RCA Theremin antennas.

Antennas of Mischa Tulin's RCA theremin
Antennas of Mischa Tulin's RCA theremin

Detail of Mischa Tulin's RCA theremin antennas.
Detail of Mischa Tulin's RCA theremin antennas.

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[Copyright: © 2003, Chuck Collins]


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