Joined: Oct 07, 2006
|Posted: Wed Aug 22, 2007 4:48 pm Post subject:
|I thought you guys might like to hear how it went...
It was a blast from start to finish.
Hands Off 2007 - The UK Theremin Symposium, to give it it's full title. We chose the word Symposium because it has two meanings - a conference and a social gathering with drinks! And for good measure we threw in a concert on the Sunday afternoon.
So, Friday afternoon, everyone started arriving, the first was a blind composer from Los Angeles, name of Patrick. Soon after our other two Americans arrived, Jon and Jen - Jon being in five piece experimental theremin band The Lothars and Jen majoring in theremin at a New York Conservatory. By dinnertime most of the 44 symposiasts had arrived and the big rig had arrived from Scotland, the electricians rewiring the school had gone away and the circuit breakers had stopped tripping out every time we did anything. As well as the US people arrived from Norway, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and all parts of the UK, Brighton, Bristol, Birmingham, Liverpool, London, Oxford and so on. Children were running around. We had serious music professors (one had no specific interest in theremins, he was just curious and it was on the way to somewhere he was going!) top classical thereminists, punk rockers (Dave Vanian!) computer nerds, players of all ages from 16 to 70 something, from hard-core electronica to English folk music, theremin builders, professional and amateur, and almost everyone had a theremin, some had two, from the guy who just finished building it in time for the symposium, it had a few bugs but was basically sound, to a croix sonore (a theremin shaped like a giant crucifix) to a couple of original RCA theremins, a host of moog products, theremins, moogfoogers, voyagers, a couple of Kees Enkelaars, some Elysians, all their amps, a matryonym (Japanese theremin inside a Russian stacking doll, and a serious amount of spaghetti running off a dozen mains sockets at most. The place was buzzing, not only from the ground loops that plagued the setting up, but was all resolved by our wires man, JD, may he and his children be blessed for seven generations, nor from the fire alarms that interrupted the Saturday several times, but because all of these people were bright, friendly, creative and excited. We got on like a house on fire. Maybe that was what was fooling the fire alarms.
Friday night started with a stage magic show put on by symposiast Mark, in the vein of Darren Brown, but without the smug little twerp with the silly moustache, and a theremin documentary, projected on a big screen.
Saturday morning we started in earnest, so I put on my red Indian suit (not a Red Indian suit, no feathered headband, think long red nightshirt) and we started with hardware - the afore mentioned croix sonore, the RCA, two high-end optical theremins, stacked with DSPs and a whole bunch of fun, Jake Rothmans theremins and theremin to CV/midi boxes, and effects, moogfoogers, a theremin playing robot doll, glove controllers, and some really good speakers, making it lively and informal. And then a chance to play with the gear. In the afternoon Lydia Kavina gave a masterclass, assisted by (for those not in the know, these are big, big names in theremin land) Barbara Buchholz and Carolina Eyck, and a young lad, Charlie Draper, 16, from Bristol, who is already really good, and he's just starting! After the masterclass, with a performance of Grainger's Free Music 1 by the aforementioned, played both forwards and backwards (it works!) we broke into four groups, Lydia giving private tuition to a few paying customers, while Charlie did an introduction to classical theremin for beginners, Barbara covered jazz and improvisation and Carolina did advanced fingering techniques (not as rude as it sounds.)
In the evening I kicked off an evening of wild improvisation by playing my theremin with hammers (the joke here is that the first really good thereminist, Clara Rockmore, wrote that you don't need hammers to play air) and then started improvising while Oli improvised on his synth, then dragging the next person onto the theremin while I got busy with my whirly plastic tubes...
Sunday morning I donned my black Indian suit with the silver trim - a bit show-biz, but I was compèring a concert in the afternoon so I felt justified - and we gathered in a side room while our virtuosos rehearsed yet again and did sound checks, and we plotted the ensemble pieces for the sunday afternoon concert. Then we set up the rest of the theremins, got them "good enough for rock and roll" and rehearsed our pieces. Lunch, and then the audience started arriving, and we hit them with three hours worth of theremin, from Jon Bernhardt playing the Ramones, and Video Killed The Radio Star in front of Bruce Woolley, who later covered the Doctor Who theme with a subset of the Radio Science Orchestra, the Radio Science Quartet, to some very free jazz, noise/art, mad scientist stuff and ambient to an hour from our virtuosos in various combinations doing classical and modern classical, and ending with Charlie and Carolina doing a medley of popular stuff - Star Trek, Good Vibrations, and finally the UK League of Thereminists, about 19 of us (I think) surrounding the audience in sound (we even had two up on the balcony) starting with Veil Nebula (original version to be found on Sonic Weekend on itunes) and exploring various ways that a circle of theremins can be put to use with a wild range of skill levels and one rehearsal in chaotic circumstances. At the end of the concert was a groupshot for The Word magazine.
Sunday night various people jammed with our wire guy, JD, including Miss Hypnotique, who turned up for the concert. And then people just noodled around and chatted. By 11.30 it felt like three in the morning and I hooked up echoes to a couple of theremins, and arranged them so I could play both at once, with my hips and arms. And I danced! The instruments interfered like anything and made a wonderful sound. When I found the rhythm there was a round of applause. Other people tried and it was different every time. So I wandered into the dining hall and ordered a box from Jake, to ring-mod two theremins with a wet/dry mix control (mine do not interfere, so I figured this would be interesting instead.)
Monday morning a lot of very tired people went home, and posted a ton of photos on the internet. Links to be found in this thread on Theremin World.
More talk and links to blog entries here.