Leon Theremin's Rhythmicon

As the inventor of the Theremin in 1920 – the first commercially distributed electronic music instrument in the world – Leon Theremin was driven by the utopian spirit  of the newly formed USSR. In 1931 he followed with a second invention, the Rhythmicon – the first ever drum machine. However, Theremin’s ideas were incompatible in an increasingly totalitarian state, and he was interned in 1938 for “anti-Soviet propaganda”. His musical instruments and inventions were destroyed, and Theremin was instructed to develop eavesdropping techniques for the KGB.

Following 27 years of internment camps and forced labour, Theremin finally find employment at the Moscow Conservatory in the mid-1960s, where he began to work again on his instruments. Even though electronic components were unavailable at that time in the USSR, Theremin managed to assemble a new version of his “Rhythmicon” from shotgun parts.

This unit is the only fully functional version of this revolutionary music machine, and has been extensively studied and restored by Andrey Smirnov, who will give a detailed overview of the instrument’s fascinating history, its technical possibilities and some of the unusual theory of rhythm that its workings are based on.