Getting often around for work and always looking for something that would avoid always carrying a studio with me, I bought the Zooms’s H4N microphone/recorder. I found out something much more powerful. Follow me!
What I was expecting
A few years back it was almost impossible to imagine a high-quality portable recording system which could be hand-held, but yet that time has come! Zoom churned out two models of “microphones”: H2N and H4N. In this article we’ll be talking about the H4N model which is the most complete between the two and we’ll be analyzing its abilities. The microphone in reality is a double microphone, meaning that it has got 2 built-in condenser capsules which can record at either 90 degrees (X) and at 120 degrees (Y) by simply moving them around. It’s provided with an accessory which allows you to mount it on a standard stand. When it’s used in this way, it can be considered a good STEREO/MONO microphone (it is possible to set) which we can always bring with us and it’s easy to use. It records on an internal SD card (bundled but even replaceable with a maximum 32GB one) and it can record in different formats, among which are WAV and MP3. It works on batteries (2 AA) or with a bundle power supply. Just like a standard microphone, it can mount a wind sock as well (also provided). The length of a recording depends on the card capacity, but if we’re recording in stereo MP3 at 256 we’ll have over 6 hours with just 1 GB capacity.
What I was not expecting
Let’s get to a more extreme use of our “microphone”. First of all, we realize that there are two additional inputs on the bottom, both balanced and unbalanced. These inputs allow you to use it as a travel sound card, and to record even from external devices, complete with an integrated mixer. Actually it’s multitrack with up to 4 channels or better said 2 external inputs + a built-in microphone. The two microphones can be replaced with an additional external microphone. The balanced inputs (XLR) are phantom powered (controlled via the menu) and this is really something you don’t expect as well. Via the four-channel mixer we can set the volumes, the pan and various functions related to the audio tracks. It’s even possible to make a mixdown for the tracks. As a final step, inside a folder on the SD card, we’ll find all the files we’ve been recording, in chronological order. Otherwise, we can connect the USB hub to a pc and recognize the microphone as an external hard disk. The ability to use it as a USB microphone, which can be predictable but not very common, is convenient for the fact that we don’t need to connect it to external soundcard. This characteristic is no small thing considering the actual usb-mic boom.
What I did not imagine
I had forgotten that Zoom produced effects which are among the best ones on the market. They did not forget to include about fifty of them inside this microphone! Basically we could use the microphone as a multieffect device, choosing an effect and connecting an output to an amplifier. The effects are really good. Besides, it is provided with a tuner featuring different modes and a metronome. And what to say about the chance to use it as a sound card? By connecting it as a USB interface and installing the provided drivers we can run the H4N as a four-track sound card for file transfer and for further editing with our favourite editing software. Actually, I can bring along my studio choosing between 2 balanced/unbalanced inputs + 2 built-in microphones, which are independent as well. 4 mono channels we can work as we like. The latency can be up to 1ms, the quality is excellent thanks to its new ASIO drivers. There is also the possibility to direct-monitor the effect during the recording (or for trying out the effects). The H4N also has some (small) on-board speakers allowing you to use it as a usb source for listening or as a mp3/wav player, in short, really versatile! It’s not lacking a headphone line out. The SPEED function allows you to slow down a track without pitch change, which is very useful in terms of best analyzing a track. Indeed this is not a function that can be compared to professional time-stretching software, this is not the case, but the quality in slowing down a track to 50% and speeding it up to 150% is quite acceptable. It’s not possible to export the result, it’s a function which can only be available for listening while playing. There is also the possibility to add a limiter and a filter for the inputs.
The surprise There is a Steinberg Cubase LE 5 license inside the box!
The price? 300,00-350,00 Euros, well spent, in my opinion.
Given that my overall opinion about this product is rather good, anyway, I have to list, for the record, all the weaknesses which could not be an insignificant detail to someone. There is a light crackling surface noise, probably due to the amplifiers. Of course it is not a studio microphone and that noise can be bearable when it comes to environmental recordings. I personally don’t think it’s that big of a deal unless you really want to use it in studio (but then again, I would not be that sure about it because any preamplifiers let a bit of noise in). The masks are not so immediate to use, but this limit is due to the little space. The integrated software allows the stand-alone use, as, for example, splitting a track, mixing 4 tracks, the mixdown, the automatic mono mix for the microphones, a minimum of equalizing, settings effects, recording volume, format options…It’s is difficult to use from a practical point of view, too uncomfortable. Once you’ve set the recording format and the volume (which has a convenient up and down switch on a side), I forget everything about its presence. Obviously, should I need it, it’s always better to know that I do have it there, but if allowed, I prefer to save my eyes! The microphone can be set for an “auto volume” to choose the proper volume in. It’s not a big deal but you need a 1/8” stereo jack (the headphone-like one) and then go to the sound card via a couple of mono1/4” jack adapters (in case of stereo recordings) or setting the mono mix by the integrated software in order to mix signals for both the two microphones and then go to the sound card with a mono 1/4” jack. Anyway, things can be sorted out although this is not the main use we can do of this device.
SD / SDHC memory card (up to 32 GB) – various recording formats such as WAV and MP3 – Quantization up to 24bit/96kHz – USB 2.0 interface – X/Y stereo microphone (variable 90° or 120°) – 2 preamplifiers for external microphones – 2 external line in can be used combined with the built-in microphones to record 4 tracks simultaneously – Multi-track recording – Instrument line in – mini onboard speaker – Wide LCD screen and intuitive interface – Broadcast Wave Format support – Pre-record and auto-record function – Marker function – Slow playback function for educational purposes – Effects – 50 preamp simulation for guitar and bass – Up to 10 hour life with AA battery – Optional remote control – AA size battery or AC adaptor (provided) – 6 hours of average battery life – Provided with a 2GB SD memory card, a windscreen, external CA adaptor, a mic clip adaptor, a USB cable, a protective case and a Steinberg Cubase LE.
Italian to English translation:Umberto del Giudice
Basically everyone knows it unconsciously, in particular I am referring to the last century “boys” who have gradually achieved a subliminal acquaintance with the standard sinusoidal hiss. In fact, since 20’s, each respectable horror movie, each suspense-generating scene, each respectable monophonic synth, considered its presence as necessary and indispensable…yet, despite of its acquired familiarity, every time you have the chance to see one with your own eyes, it is always a surprise: we’re talking about Theremin!
Theremin is the first electronic instrument in history (Picture 1), named after its Russian inventor Lev Termen in 1919. It is basically made up by two antennas, one upright and one looped to the side of a case in which the electronics is put up. Its control consists in moving hands towards and away from the antennas: through the upright one (vertical rod) you can control pitch , while the left one (horizontal rod) you can control volume. With a series of dials (Picture 2), depending on the type of wave and on some variable filters, timbre can change between a violin’s one and human voice’s one: typical of “wave” or “brightness” sequence. This instrument is considered the most difficult to play just because it must be played without touching it. PHYSICS OF THEREMIN: The physical principle of Theremin’s functioning is based on beating two waves together. Two oscillators produce a same wave with a higher frequency which means non-audible in quiet state (ultrasound range). By connecting an antenna to the condenser of one of the two oscillators, any mass, such as a musician’s body for example, that falls into its range of action varies the condenser capacity and consequently the frequency of the generated wave. By the difference between the two frequencies (which are not the same anymore) is generated a third one (this phenomenon is well known among musicians as the third sound principle). By setting the system properly it is possible to hold this final wave within the audible range of 20Hz- 20Khz and so we get a sound that can be heard by our ears. The volume antenna is the earth-ground of a second variable condenser. In this case the oscillator varies the amplification circuit. The distance between the performer’s hand and the antenna (Picture 3) determines condenser value and the course of the volume curve.
Leon Termen (Picture 4) the Theremin’s inventor, after the success of the instrument, was called “Theremin” by everyone and often it is the only one name we find in his biographies. Termen had the idea for this instrument while doing some experiments for the army with valve amplifiers: He noticed that sometimes a variable frequency hiss was produced as he changed the distance between his hands and the valves. Being a musician himself, he sensed its utility and developed the idea so to get to build an out-and-out instrument which was called “eterofono”(Thereminvox). In 1957 “The delicate delinquent”, the comedian actor Jerry Lewis “plays” a Theremin he accidentally ran across in the attic. The greatest Theremin player in history, Clara Rockmore, was a child prodigy on the violin, still the youngest student ever admitted to the Imperial Conservatory in St. Petersburg (at age five). She started studying Theremin as she couldn’t continue her violin career because of bone problems due to childhood malnutrition. John Cage understood the instrument’s capabilities and talked about it in the conference “The future of music” highlighting its expressive opportunities. Paradoxically he did a very little use of it as well as all the vanguard musicians in 30’s! Soon after the end of world war two Theremin fell into disuse. Robert Moog (Picture 6), a high school student, in the 50’s began to build Theremin’s circuits and to re-release the instrument Lenin, the Russian dictator, started to study Theremin after watching Termen playing it in 1920. He was so enthusiastic about it that he ordered not less than 600 of them to distribute in Soviet Union and paid for a Termen’s journey to promote the instrument. Termen disappeared in 1938. Kidnapped by the K.G.B. and interned with many other scientists to a labour camp in Siberia, he showed up 30 years later. Soon after the Theremin’s invention, with the same principle, Termen worked on an antitheft alarm (Burglar alarm) which is still very popular to these days. In the 70’s Termen started teaching her nephew Lydia Kavina (she was 9 years old) who is considered the greatest contemporary classical thereminist.
…and in Italy?
We have been visiting the only one italian school that provides a yearly course in Theremin, the “Accademia Musicale del Vallo Di Diano” (Picture 7) in Sala Consilina (Salerno), more precisely it is settled in Teggiano’s site (Salerno) where the Academy is provided with a recording studio located inside of a suggestive episcopal seminary founded in 1500. To illuminate our way came Fabio Pesce, informatic engineer and music as a vocation. The adventure starts with an open door to the studio, a dim light, and a long stone hallway swayed by a scary hiss. I’m following him with a mix of anxiety and curiosity…
Fabio Pesce (Picture 8) Informatic Engineer and musician, graduated at the University of Pisa, works on building a software of music synthesis by the Music Informatics Centre of the CNUCE Institute (National University Centre of Electronic Calculation) of the National Research Council of Prof. Tarabella. Since 2002 he is a teacher in “Steinberg Educational”. Hardware and Software advisor for recording studios and for musicians on the italian territory; courses, masters, postgraduate education in Music Informatics. Since 2004 he is the person in charge of the two-year musical informatics course and sound engineer at the “Accademia musicale del Vallo di Diano” in Sala Consilina and in Teggiano (Salerno) which has been followed by the first italian permanent course in Theremin in 2008.He has been studying Theremin with the best teachers in the world such as Lydia Kavina , Barbara Buchholz, Carolina Eyck, Randy George and Wilco Botermans and has been performing in many Theremin Orchestra shows with Lydia Kavina in Germany (Without touch 2and 3, Electronic Art Party 5) and in England (SW4 and SW5). He has been playing classical Theremin in duo with the organist Tonino Angone and electronic music with Chris Henkel (o8o8.de). He is also holding a solo show. In 2009 he recorded the Vulkano cd with the saxophonist Gaspare de Vito, Chris Henkel (synth) and Gordon Charlto(Theremin and effects) – AMV editions – which has been included in “Sonic Weekend 4” and “Sonic Weekend 5” compilations produced by White Label (UK). He mostly plays a Etherwave Pro by Moog.
Antonio Campeglia: Let’s talk about your Theremin….
Fabio Pesce: Let me introduce you the first electronic instrument in history. The only one which is played without any physical contact. It was 1920 when the Russian inventor Leon Termen (lately called Theremin in western countries) played it in front of an amazed Lenin. These are the latest two models that have been produced by Moog in the latest years: an already rare Etherwave Pro, also known as the Epro (Picture9), and a standard Etherwave
AC: There would also be an Etherwave Plus, recently realised….
FP: I know it, I know it , but i am still waiting to get it. It is a mix between the two , a modified version in order to be competitive into the consolidated market of controllers. Playing a Theremin in a classical manner is way too complicated for the average musician, it requires too much commitment and mainly time. By the Bob Moog’s death, in 2005, coincidentally, there has been also a growing lack of attention in Etherwave Pro. At that time it would take 1500 dollars to buy an Epro when it was still for sale. Not a low price if you consider that the 90% of the sold ones was going to become some pieces of furniture or to be used only for some vintage effect sound. Nowadays Epro has become not only the most desired model, very hard to find, but, in this case, it would take a higher amount of money, a good three times the initial price. I bought this one in California, it is the number 347. AC: What price?
FP: At least 700,00 euros for import duties, not much left to say, it’s a bit painful… Back to its production, Bob Moog really put his heart in it, he loved Theremin very much and as a matter of fact the professional instrument has existed until he was alive. When he died, the Moog house has pushed more into realising a lighter and cheaper product, the standard six octave range Etherwave, less precise but more versatile. It’s an understandable marketing logic. Differently from the previous one they had to sacrifice CV outputs, tuner and headphone outputs, sub bass and high register, aesthetics and mainly the linearity which has made the Epro the most stable model by far. Etherwave was born to be used more as a controller and in fact it has had a larger spread thanks to Thereminsts, foleies and sound engineers. In the Plus version outputs for CV, tuner and headphone have reappeared. I would not talk about linearity, I should play it to tell about it, but it must be as linear as the standard version since they even sell its upgrade separately.
AC: How did this passion begin? Engineering and music, a hard pair.
FP: I have been living in Pisa till 1999, where I graduated in Engineering. For about nine years I’ve been working as a professional musician: guitar ( an Ovation that I still play), keyboards and also a bit of singing when it was needed. When I had to choose a degree thesis I was fully aware I could not try to project computers or microchips… so I tried to rejoin my old muse somehow. I discovered that a certain Prof. Leonello Tarabella was the director of the musical informatics lab at CNUCE (National University Centre of Electronic Calculation ) in the CNR area (National Research Council) in Pisa. I did my best to get there and I made it, but it was not so easy. I was not really aware of what I’d have had to do ( and maybe neither was him) anyway I have been there for a good two years, it was an unforgettable experience. Professor Tarabella was (and still is) specialized in gesture controlled applications. Some typical applications were the “imaginary piano” (Picture 10), where a pianist sat on a piano stool playing a non-existent piano in front of a camera; a virtual brush that a painter mimicked in the air with a recognition system that allows the graphic interpretation of his gestures to be watched on a giant screen (I still remember a Windows 98 blue screen error on a 10 square-meter screen in Lucca during a show) and above all the “twin towers” application born when there was nothing to fear of. The musician had to move his hands on a rectangular board while some infrared led emitters and sensors were reading each hand’s distance and converting its analog signals into midi signals. Basically it was a sort of modern Theremin, volume and pitch. Anyway I was working on projecting a synthesizer software Csound alike or similar, but the “without touch” seed had already been planted.
AC: I thought I understood that your first Theremin was previous than 90’s. FP: Yes, indeed. When I left Pisa for Napoli, I’ve been working really hard to be an engineer in capital letters. Software, hardware, projects. Then Youtube was born and one day I saw someone playing Theremin. When I saw it, perhaps in 2004, it was like Colombo’s egg and something awakened inside of me. I even remembered that I have been publishing an article during CNUCE experience about Theremin, for some historical notion. It was love at first sight. Yes because that’s what happens with Theremin. All the respectable thereminists , those who have a deep passion for this instrument, are some sort of a little community, like motorbikers who own a Harley-Davidson. There aren’t many of them around the world and they nearly know each other, they have their own international mailing list, a forum and even a web-radio which broadcasts only theremin music. They also do meetings in places around the world. Since that day, I never stopped playing it. I bought the standard model and when I got so good at it to understand that I had to get something better I started searching for an Epro all over the world.
AC: What kind of music do you play and teach?
FP: To be honest with you, I am a bit of an eclectic player, but I prefer the classical and pop music instead of the electronic one. I use the verb “prefer” because it is not by chance that in Germany there is a beautiful amount of traditional old synthesizers from the 80’s music, therefore when I go there and play, I often find myself in pure electronic music environments , experimental live shows, electro-acoustics. In Monaco I am working on a project with Chris Henkel (Picture 11), we are known there with the name of “o8o8”. In England I am taking part in many White Label’s projects, an independent english label which is into some experimental music. Even there we are moving into improvisation but with self-built instrument or adapted ones. Sonic Weekend is a yearly event that requires the “abduction” of 20 musicians coming from all over the world to record a cd, more or less in this genre ( I took part in two of them). In Italy I try to conform myself but I mostly tend to classical music. I have a project with the organist Antonio Angone , we make classical music and soundtracks with organ and Theremin, Ewi and LoopStation, Pamelia Kurstin genre alike (endorser Theremin by Moog that I appreciate as well) but using more instruments (Picture 12) While in the Academy we teach a bit of everything, it depends on the student’s demands, courses are mostly individual, so you can adapt them. There are djs that want to upgrade their repertory with effects, some percussionists who want to add new sounds to their set, some others instead who wants to do the classical or pop procedure. By now Theremin is evolving approaching many genres. It is a very versatile and suitable instrument with some defaults. We also do some stages during weekends because Theremin requires long time in a learning process and often physiological time. In some cases it could be more productive doing some more intensive sessions letting out some more time between one lesson and another.
AC: Don’t you think that the Thereminist’s technique has been fossilized in time and has nothing left to communicate in a creative sense?
FP: Clara Rockmore revolutionized the classical technique with her “aerial fingering” (Picture 13). Previously it had been played using a “bird beak-shaped” hand, in a much more limited way. From then on it has been passing through a lot of evolution attempts but not so different from the original form. I did developed a technique of my own that I called HS Theremin (High Speed Theremin) which allows very fast crossings between the notes with a good precision; I have always been obsessed in refreshing my repertory and in order to make it you must be good at playing almost everything. Instead in electronic music its evolutions have been immeasurable. I have witnessed myself someone connecting a Theremin to some fan blades (Aliens Project) or playing it with a big screwdriver (Gordon Charlton). I am not arguing about its utility, but it is interesting that there are people willing to get new sounds and experience new stuff. This Academy has in Lippstadt, in Germany, a sort of cultural interchange with MusicskuleLippstadt which every year arranges one of the biggest events about worldwide Theremin, it’s called “Without Touch” (now at its third edition) and even there you can see musicians from various backgrounds coming from all over the world who play the instrument in the most peculiar ways across many different genres.
AC: What do you learn in a Theremin course?
FP: Teaching Theremin from a classical point of view (but also in a contemporary way) requires self-denial and restraint comparable or even further than other instruments’ one. Since the body is equal part of the instrument, it only takes a deeper breath, an unintentional movement, a bit of itch to make the performance blow up. The Thereminist cannot be so free as other instrument players who lead the note with body movements. Here the torso almost stands still, while hands follow the notes and tangles in a few centimeter area. The 12 semitones of an octave are generally in the area of a hand hanging in mid-air, the distance between a C and a C sharp is about half a centimetre range. The first steps, after the discover of this instrument, are about the breath control and the posture which is not so easy as it may seem. The body must keep as firm as possible on the ground and mainly during all the concert time through. Gordon Charlton, an english musician friend of mine, wrote a book recently (The Beat Frequency Method – Theremin for the Sonic Explorer. – Edit – ) where he claims that the best theremisnist’s posture is a martial arts athlete’s one. More precisely the Karate’s one, the most used, spread legs with low basin (Picture 14), or the Tai-chi’s one with a slight outstretched body, right leg (clockwise) more projected bend knee, right foot firm on the ground and the left foot perpendicular (Picture 15). Posture is primary because it determines the most of the note’s precision. Lately some plays while sitting to reduce the variability and to improve the balance: If you are sitting on a chair perhaps you stop the tradition but you don’t have to be “karate kid”! Everyone of us, when standing still, oscillates involuntarily and this represents a serious problem with Theremin that must be corrected. Anyway every position ends up in tiring our body if held for a long time, therefore, whether sitting or standing tall, it is important that it is a comfortable position. Finally we work a lot on the ear, on being able to understand which tone you’ve reached and try to hold it as long as you can. For those who haven’t got an absolute pitch , without an accompaniment or a note of reference it is very easy to slip into other tones or half tones. Even instruments like violins or cellos suffer from similar problems about pitch but, even though they haven’t got any key, they offer musicians the possibility to orientate through a note played in vain by a string.
AC: What about attacks? How can you begin to play a piece of music without hearing the note?
FP: Now it is getting a little more complicated because whether you have an absolute pitch or not the first note is always a problem that keeps on showing up at every track’s pause. There are some techniques of which one is unfailing: sending a pitch preview to headphones! The Epro and the Plus have a tuner output which is always on, also at a low volume. Even standard Etherwave can be modified to host a tuner output. If you send it to headphone, that’s it! Despite everything, this technique doesn’t seem to get so much consideration even though it is very well used. Somehow it’s like misplaying and cheating, on the other hand it is not so easy playing a track trying to give it some kind of expressivity with a persistent hiss in your ear that you cannot even stop by turning down its volume. Another similar option is to put a visible tuner ahead of Theremin. However the most used technique is the english one, which they call “fishing” the note. Basically it is based on trying to pick up a note giving little taps to volume to hear the note, so gently to be nearly heard. In general the “fishing” technique works well if the musician can hear louder than the audience through a monitor which should be ahead or behind him. More ancient in terms of style is the way of finding the note with an initial glissando to stop at the right point: it is a secure system although the result is questionable for the track will be full of unwanted glissatoes and portamentoes. Honestly I teach all of them but I prefer fishing with the help of a visual technique that catches the area where the note should be. The musician goes straight to the area where the note should be in order to avoid many attempts. In general a couple of listen are enough to catch a tone. The rest of the course is divided between various musical exercises, tuning, effects, some technique to improve performance speed and getting a relaxed hand. Last but not least, a series of information about the Theremin place on a stage. Still this aspect shows its uniqueness since it is an instruments that requires a physical space. It’s not only about avoiding another musician or a careless photographer getting into his reach but even other engine’s interferences. It is a real problem when on stage there are more than one Theremin. Epros are by far the most hard to place because they have a very high interfering potential. A usual situation is when you are tuning a Theremin close to perfection then you turn a microphone on with a wrong frequency and bzzzzzzzz.
AC: What can you tell me about studying Theremin? Theremin is not taught at conservatories and, mainly in Italy, neither is there any school for it, nor a big interest about it. That’s why we decided to start a course. Valid musicians are really few, less than fingers of one hand. Even though it is considered the most difficult musical instrument in the world (try to catch a note in the air and then you tell me!) it is the most easy to be played in a wrong way as well! It only takes a little shaking in front of its antenna to get a rather good sound; children, for example, are really enthusiastic about it (actually adults are too) and on the internet you can see a lot of videos where cats gone crazy play Theremin. What you need is a lot of ear because you have to keep in mind the distance between the notes and not to lose its tone. Clara Rockmore (died in 1998, – Edit -), considered the greatest thereminist by far, not a coincidence she was a Bob Moog and Theremin’s friend, claimed that Theremin could not be the first instrument to learn. Apart from the electronic genre there are no requirements, the classical one needs instrumental basic notions to approach Theremin’s use. That’s the reason why, if the student is completely clueless about it, we have him attending lessons in an another instrument (whatever). It is too hard to learn a rule for an instrument that actually doesn’t have any rules. The difference between a note scale rather good played and a perfect one, often is the result of a hundred rehearsals! Your hand must get used to a precise gestural memory, otherwise any performance would not be played again in the same way. No thereminist is flawless, I say it from my own experience. Practicing is the main aspect, and tracks must be learned by heart and then played, you have to visualize the note in your mind before playing it, a little hesitation can be fatal, something like singing….but with hands. Paradoxically that’s what causes a musician’s dependency on this instrument: if you have a good ear you are always close to the note but never where you really should be. So you have a perception that you can do it but it is often a momentary security that keeps you practicing on and on trying to get better. When it comes to playing a Theremin your body is a part of the instrument itself. Everything depends on the way you breath, on the finger’s length, on what kind of Theremin you are using and even on how much you weight and on your basin’s girth (it is not a joke, thereminists with a protruding stomach sometimes brush by the volume antenna, if they don’t adjust their posture they are not able to produce some “crescendo” , “forte” or “fortissimo” parts or even they are not producing any sounds). AC: How did you proceed your studying?
FP: After learning, with my own strength, what I could, stealing here and there some techniques and advices, I went to Germany and to England where it is well known and there is a lot more tradition in studying it. There I met, knew and studied with most famous airwaves ladies: Lydia Kavina (Picture16) Leon Theremin’s granddaughter, who is considered the world’s greatest living performer of classical Theremin, Barbara Buchholz with her unique jazz technique, Carolina Eyck who published a method of her own which – even though I partially sympathize with it – made me understand that you can teach a less personal technique from it.
AC: What about Theremin’s use as a controller? FP: There are many possibilities, it depends a lot on the type of instrument. If we talk about Epro and Eplus we have a CV output and so we are able to control synth and effects through that endowment. You can convert CV to MIDI if you want and that’s the real deal. The most peculiar CV use I have ever seen is by controlling a Moog guitar that has got a CV-in. Technically you move yourself holding a guitar in your hands close to a Theremin and the guitar plays emulating a sweep picking. There is another adaptable possibility to every Theremin via software. I developed a software of my own for personal use only that allows me to convert Theremin’s sound into MIDI. The sound by its own nature is well suitable to conversion. By connecting virtual instruments the result is really impressive. You are able to play any VST opened on the computer (Picture 17).
AC: Theremin is an analogic instrument: The A/D conversion transforms it as it was naturally digital: did you find a way to avoid gaps between the notes?
FP: In reality using its software in a standard way if you do a glissato you hear a scale instead (ta-ta-ta-ta- and not taaaaaaaa for example). It’s because it depends on the virtual instrument for I was able to send the notes without setting them as pitch shifting. If for example you use instruments that can support analogic pitch shifting (para-analogic) it surely works better. For instance, a VST or a FM7 or a Korg works better than others because they are not sampled but produced in real time, so latency apart, they can play a shift correctly.
AC: What future is there for an instrument that is already 90 by now?
FP: Despite of its age, I believe that Theremin is a young instrument in future prospects. Music since the 20s to date has changed a lot. Termen was a revolutionary, ahead in time at least decades in comparison to the real instrument’s possibilities. Electronic music today is widely spread and not just an experiment anymore. Theremin is suitable in many environments and many roads still have to be attempted. Its use as a controller is still rather recent and it will grow along with software and hardware evolution.
AC: We might as well wait for the Plus version and test it….
FP: I’d love to, it would be a pleasure to test it together. AC: Then, I’ll see you next time!
Italian to english translation: Umberto del Giudice