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Theremin: Ether Music and Espionage

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  85 ratings  ·  20 reviews

Leon Theremin led a life of flamboyant musical invention laced with daring electronic stealth. A creative genius and prolific inventor, Theremin launched the field of electronic music virtually singlehandedly in 1920 with the musical instrument that bears his name. The theremin-–the only instrument that is played without being touched-–created a sensation worldwide and
Paperback, 480 pages
Published February 2nd 2005 by University of Illinois Press (first published 2000)
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Rebecca McNutt
It's impossible to read this book without getting a whole new perspective on the world around you and without leaning new details about the smallest and simplest things. Reading Theremin is a completely different experience and it's a really interesting book.
Jun 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Anyone who has dabbled in electronic music in the past half century, with its synthesizers, drum machines, amplification circuitry, and such, perhaps owes a great debt to the spirit of Lev Terman, known in the West as he was by the name of Leon Theremin. The instrument Termen invented back in the 1920's in Sovet Russia, (known to us all by the name theremin) led on to the inspirations of Robert Moog, who of course, building on Termen's ideas, cobbled together the first modular sound generators ...more
Tara Brabazon
Mar 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A phenomenal book. Fifteen years of incredible archival research has created - I believe - the definitive biography of Leon Theremin (Lev Sergeyevich Termen). Glinsky has enacted a profound work of scholarship here, working the archive but also opening and understanding the (large) gaps and silences in the Theremin narrative.

The Theremin biography is also a history of the twentieth century, modernity and the Soviet Union. All parts of this history are integrated, including an outstanding
Mary Soderstrom
Oct 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
A wonderful, incredibly researched biography of the man who invented a way to make music from radio waves--and much more.
Dec 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is not just a fascinating and detailed biography of one of the earliest pioneers in electronic music and other strange and stealthy inventions. It is also a tale of life as a Soviet national in the US during the Great Depression and then his resulting gruesome life in Soviet Russia as a scientist and engineer convicted of being an enemy of the state during Stalin's reign of terror. I had either forgotten from history class, or never learned the grim details, but Stalin's Russia was ...more
Jun 11, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, nonfiction, music
It's kind of slow. Part of the slowness is due to the lack of raw materials about Theremin's personal life, since what there may have been such as letters, cables, etc were all swallowed up by the Soviet machine decades ago, never to be seen again. Where I'm bogged down now is around 1930. Theremin is in America, making deals, securing patents, putting on concerts and so forth -- all this is told through whatever public documents the author has managed to dig up, with a heavy reliance on ...more
Dec 02, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: reviewed
I fell in love with the theremin when I was 12 years old. The ethereal and wavy sound of the nothing, creeping inside like a kitten, and growing stronger and more wild with each movement. This book is not about that at all. It's quite technical and if you are in to the behind the music scene, the inventive mind, and stories about intriguing real people, this is something to check out. If you want to hear and see the story, watch MOOG. You will get the homogenized cream, instead of the rich ...more
Mar 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Absolutely fantastic. Readably and entertainingly piles fact upon biographical fact, incidentally making clear how much myth-making there is in the (admittedly awesome) documentary THEREMIN: AN ELECTRONIC ODYSSEY. Also - check out the bit where Theremin unsuccessfully pioneers the tech gamers now know as the Kinect - he wanted dancers' choreographed movements to generate music (in the 1920s)! And if anyone has forgotten the paranoia and horror of Stalin's Russia and the gulags, this book will ...more
Aug 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing
After seeing the documentary "Moog" by Hans Fjellestad, I wanted to know more about Lev Termen (Leon Theremin). While this book is very good and very thorough, be warned that it contains a lot of technical detail regarding Theremin's inventions and work so some parts could be a little dry or boring for those not familiar with/interested in those technical details. Still, it is well worth the read if you are at all curious about his fascinating life, Russia's violent and oppressive recent past, ...more
Kevin Sexton
Sep 22, 2013 rated it liked it
The story of Leon Theremin is incredible, but unfortunately the book's weighed down with too many superfluous details. Every time you get to a great, suspenseful part, there's a long tangent about something like the status of each of Theremin's patents. The details are interesting, but as a narrative, it gets to be a slog.
Nov 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is a well-researched book about a man who lived a fascinating life. Some sections dragged on a bit much with arcane details and could have been edited down but this did not detract from the overall quality of the story.
Feb 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
It was a really good book.
Liz Brau
i wanted really to learn about the theremin, not a huge-ass damn boring detailed history of who said what when and who stopped whom from going where. ugh.
Dylan Benito
Oct 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Amazing book. If you are interested in Russian history or music history, read this book.
Must read-1
Oct 07, 2007 rated it really liked it
He invented the TV, made "Good Vibrations" possible and may have been a commie spy. What have you done with your life?
Robert Lauriston
Nov 24, 2008 rated it liked it
This could be ***** if it had been edited with a heavier hand. Too many passages read like raw notes.
Timothy Polashek
Dec 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Super book-- lots of great Russian, American, and Music History. It's fun to read about all the fascinating interactions he had with American artists and musicians.
Jeremiah Genest
Sep 17, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: espionage, eliptony
Very interestiong bio, I wasn't aware Theremin had such a crazy life.
Keri Latimer
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