For some reason, DL's post showing Lee Wiley poised to sing reminded me about this documentary. Maybe it's because both images hold that grainy mystery shared by many of the films and photos from the early 20th. Or maybe it was that Wiley, a jazz chanteuse, was hitting her stride right around the same time as the theremin. Who knows. My brain works a lot along the lines of "One of These Things is Not Like the Other."
I saw Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey at my friend Mahoney's house, which is oft-cluttered with amplifiers, circuit boards, and computers, as well as oddly-shaped knobs, fountains of wires and metal boxes whose functions remain a puzzle to me. Mahoney is a dreamer-guitar-player-inventor-geek-science-buff. He loves all things electric.
The Russian-born Leon Theremin invented his namesake instrument somewhere around 1920, giving public recitals in New York and Europe for almost two decades afterwards. The theremin became a quick hit with artists everywhere, and went on to serve as soundtracks for outer-space and monster flicks, as well as for scores by synth-inventor Robert Moog and Brian Wilson of Beach Boys fame (there's a rather mesmerizing bit in the film where Wilson just blathers on about the theremin's grandeur.)
All interesting stuff, but then the story becomes as strange as the oscillating and ethereal spookiness the theremin emits (more weirdness: the instrument is played without touching it). In 1938 Leon vanished and did not reappear until 50 years later, with an explanation that includes a kidnapping, the KGB, and a labor camp where he was forced to perform spy-related tasks.
His ultimate reunion with family and friends sort of choked me up, especially his meeting with protégé Clara Rockmore, who is widely considered a master thereminist and who narrates much of the story.
One of my favorite parts of any movie is after the ending, when the screen turns dark and the credits roll and there is hopefully a song playing. I like to sit back and think about what it is I've seen. This is my last post of the week with BAP but not the last time I'll visit. This week I've read entries by other writers about Parisian cemeteries and the Rolling Stones, Obama at the All Star Game, and how to make a spicy sweet Italian liqueur with under-ripe walnuts. I've read poems and interviews and so much more.
And now I'd like to mull it all over, with a bit of help from Ms. Rockmore, she of the gifted hands and the fabulous silver turban.