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“Vanishing Point.” A Theremin Concept Album

Photograph of Maurizio "ErMan" Mansueti with a Subscope V3 theremin.
Maurizio “ErMan” Mansueti with his Subscope V3 theremin.

Saggini: Was Richard C. Sarafian’s Vanishing Point film somehow inspiring this album?

Mansueti: No. I recognize that the movie was a beautiful cult movie, but my record has nothing to do with the heroic “Kowalski” and his tragic epilogue in that “zero point.” My idea of Vanishing Point was born from the idea of linear perspective as a vanishing point in painting (from Brunelleschi onwards) and photography. It is the idea that it is possible to speak of the vanishing point as the intersection of different perspectives also with music.

My album “Vanishing Point” is an introspective journey towards that point that tends to infinity, where parallel lines of thoughts, stories, and emotions converge. It has a positive meaning: the “Vanishing Point” is the door to new perspectives and dimensions. It is not the zero point or the final point. Therefore, each track deals with this theme, and the theremin is the ideal musical instrument to tell this journey.

I’m one of those artists who still think of an album-release as a “concept album,” a bit like writing a book. And even if the digital world, especially Spotify, leads me to think about a collection of singles and then crush the idea of a concept album in favor of a “disposable” track, I still think that an album has weight, has something to narrate. It is not correct to listen to it in a “shuffle or random” way. You have to listen to the album in sequence like the acts of a play in a theater or like reading a book.

Saggini: In “Vanishing Point,” you used the Moog Music Etherwave Pro and the Subscope Voicematic 3. Can you tell us something about these two theremins, how they differ, their strengths, and their weaknesses?

Mansueti: From the point of view of recording quality, both are excellent instruments. The Etherwave Pro is also the best in live acts because you can easily move between the high, mid, and low registers of three octaves “on the fly,” in addition to the excellent presets immediately available. For recording is also excellent as output audio power, so in recording and post-recording, it does not need any special intervention, except trying to modulate the volume and environment to mix well with the other instruments.

The Subscope Voicematic 3 by Dominik Bednarz is a distinctive theremin with a beautiful “voice” with timbre also with a “vintage” flavor. So, for me, the Subscope has a more persuasive voice than the Etherwave Pro. It does not have registers to jump within the octaves, but it arrives beyond 6-7 octaves. That is good, but the distance between the notes becomes obviously smaller, so it is more difficult to play than Etherwave Pro but is good as portability.

So I love the voices of this theremin, and since the sound is thinner during the recording phase, there is a need to give it a greater pre-amplification that does not denature its voice. Thanks to the suggestion of Randy George, an excellent musician and engineer, I use the ART Tube MP Studio V3, which is a tube pre-amplifier, so it leaves the theremin voice warmth but with more weight.

Saggini: Are theremins the only “out of the box” instruments you used for this album? Do You still use Yamaha’s TENORI-ON? And can you tell us something about the virtual instruments you used: synthesizers and sample libraries?

Mansueti: Not this time for “Vanishing Point” album. The Tenori-on is a fantastic sequencer invented by Toshio Iwai for Yamaha, which is beautiful to see live too. I used it in the second album “Carnival of Seduction,” where, in several tracks, I studied the idea of having a constant groove but rich in sound and editable even live. In order to have a sort of sequencer with presets but editable during live and to do this, I used it connected “in synch” with Ableton Live via midi, where I used several libraries of instruments recorded from acoustic sources.

For “Vanishing Point,” I hazarded this time. My “recording chain” started from Apple’s Ipad Pro and then moved to workstations for post-production. I used Cubasis on Ipad, which guarantees that I can transport the song anywhere on Cubase, even to studio workstations. In this case, the peculiarity is that many virtual libraries are born for Ipad and that the MIDI Chain today is really evolved with Audiobus because you can reach even complex mixing by integrating various sources of virtual instruments connected either as audio or midi.

Among the virtual instruments, definitely, Korg, for example, is very rich in libraries and synths, but I also like very modern synths like SynthMasterOne based on wavetable, but editable. And we cannot forget to mention Moog and Arturia! And especially we can’t forget that the theremini synthesis engine comes from the wonderful Moog Music App “Animoog.”

Another interesting App, visually and also as an idea of composition, is the Fugue Machine. I used it on the song “Weightless.” The Fugue Machine is a very little but powerful tool to interact with multiple looped melodies. A sort of advanced arpeggiator, so you can have, for example, simultaneous loops in 16 beats, 8 beats, etc.. that chase each other in various modes even in reverse. A little Philip Glass loop in a box!

Valerio, I could spend hours talking about music, but let’s give a final advice to those who will read the article: forget all the technical parts I mentioned above, which are for professionals and musicians, and let yourself be transported beyond the “Vanishing Point” while listening to my new album!

Find more information about “Vanishing Point” theremin concept album and Timeless Sonic Factory here.

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