August 14th, 2006

abstract butterfly

vibrating electric fields

I've been thinking about theremins lately. I wonder, for that matter, if there is anything wrong with me that a theremin would not cure. I like the idea of a theremin, because one plays the fields around the instrument, without touching the instrument itself. I heard someone on the radio say that longevity depends a lot on people touching one another. I love to hold the hand of a loved one. Yet I must put forward the mild note of protest that I am not at all impressed with Gratuituous Formal Touching Experiences. I give as an example a circle of people joining hands to pray. To me, invoking ultimate reality seems already like a pretty intimate and meaningful act.
I do not need the feel of unfamiliar hands in my hand to achieve a sense of closeness with the moment. Yet the thing is expected, a "fitting part" of the experience.

I offer for your consideration the theremin. None of that casual touching of the keys which somewhat sullies the experience of playing music in an analog way. In a theremin, one trips the light fantastic of pure sound--waving one's hands in the air like a banshee or a conductor.
They say the theremin is not an easy instrument to play, but, really, what is ease? What is comfort? Is there comfort on trying to keep up with damper pedals and tuning instruments with 44 strings? The theremin is not huggable, but perhaps the point is not to hug. So many times music becomes a huggable moment--hugged with sentiment, hugged with academic interest, hugged with the bones of history. A theremin offers the possibility of sound without embrace.

A quick glance on eBay shows dozens of theremins. One is shaped like a blue baby's head. I'd rather have my theremins less anthropmorphic, I think. I'd want my theremin, like my ideas, to contain drifting ethereal nothings, hovering in space. I imagine that miniaturization will permit theremins to be the size of a thimble. I'd love to wave my hand around a shell game, each a theremin, and underneath them all the magic bean--the winning of the bet, the hug without embrace, the lively spinning sound of sound embraced as sound.

I think a lot of theremins lately. I read of the New York Theremin Society, and the interesting theremin artist Dorit Chrysler. I am never sure quite what ails me. I am not even sure I am ailing at all. But I am reasonably sure that a theremin would suit my needs better than any dietary supplement. I wish AM radio featured more theremins, and perhaps long dialogues about pieces of music, and fewer ways to get healthy and rich for 29.95.

I looked up to Heaven, and waved my hands, and Heaven answered, as if from deepest space. I believe in programmed music, written into a hard drive like so many words of text. I believe in sounds escaping musical scales, and the mathematic expression of their revelation. I believe in flights of fancy, flights from the ordinary,and flights via mozilla.

I believe in the theremin, because this modern world promised so much, and the theremin gives a hint of rapture--or deliverance.