Music With Just a Wave of a Hand

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.


by Avery Johnson, The St. Petersburg Times

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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