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Music With Just a Wave of a Hand

MOSCOW - In a small warren of rooms on the fourth floor of the Moscow Conservatory, the sound of sliding scales can be heard. There, a lone musician plays an instrument without ever touching it.

The instrument is a theremin - invented in 1920 by Soviet musician, inventor and electrical engineer Lev Theremin - and it is widely considered the world's first electronic instrument, a precursor of the synthesizer.

Despite the importance of his invention - and the fact that, during his 97 years of life, Theremin played many roles, including electrical engineer, inventor, musician, society dandy, prison inmate and spy - Theremin has been largely forgotten.

But, at the Conservatory's Theremin Center for Electro-Acoustic Music, theremin player Lydia Kavina labors to keep the inventor's legacy alive, and his instrument in (or near) the hands of musicians. Every Friday at the non-profit studio is Theremin Day, when Kavina - who is Theremin's great niece in addition to being a composer and theremin player - gives free theremin lessons to a group of about 300 students.

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