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 in the USA he followed with a second invention, the Rhythmicon – the first ever drum machine.
However, after his return to Soviet Russia in 1939 Theremin was arrested and condemned ‘for participation in the counterrevolutionary organization’ to eight years hard labour. After one year in the stone quarries of Kolima he was moved to the special prison for scientists, where he was instructed to develop eavesdropping techniques for the KGB.
Following 25 years of internment camps, forced labour and secret work at KGB, Theremin finally found 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.