Sunday, January 24, 2010

Clara Rockmore (1911-1998)

Clara Rockmore
(Vilnius, March 3rd, 1911 – New York, May 10th, 1998)
The theremin, known at its beginnings as "heterophone", takes the name from its inventor, Lev (Leon) Theremin. Created in 1919 in Russia, it is considered one of the most difficult instruments to play; it does not have real tactile clues, no chords or keypads. Only the eyes, the hearing and a conscious interaction of the hands with the magnetic field can modify the waves generated by the two oscillators crating an unmistakable sound. For a full control of the theremin, a serious knowledge of musical theory, an absolute pitch, a thousand of hours spent exercising and executive precision are needed. All qualities that Clara Reisenberg had.
At only five years old Clara made history as the youngest student of Saint Petersburg conservatory. She studied violin mentored by Leopold Aure, because of bone problems and malnutrition Clara had to suddenly quit her instrument. From then on the door of electronic music would open wide to her.
Mrs Rockmore never denied her past as a violinist, and Leon Theremin violoncellist's past might not be a coincidence as well.
Clara's intention was to give dignity to an instrument that was used generally for special effect's creation; the belief that a proper music could be created with a modern instrument made her refuse the well paid contract for the creation of "Spellbound" effects.

“Bach couldn't write for the theremin when he was alive, but there is no reason why I can't play Bach on the theremin today.”

The same vision will bring Wendy Carlos with her Switched on Bach to contaminate with electronica pop music's world.
Clara's extraordinary talent was well supported by Theremin, eminent professor and faithful friend in America, where Clara played many times and lived until her death.

“This is a very favorite subject of mine. At this stage of my life, I am not that concerned with my career, because I've had it all, - eight suitcases of reviews. I don't need critical acclaim now. But I won't live forever. The world of electronic music is just at the beginning. It's growing and growing and growing. It is criminal not to know its beginnings. This time is much different than that time when I first played. Then I was accepted in spite of the instrument, because of my musicianship. Now I think the theremin should be accepted because of the interest in electronic musical instruments and what is possible electronically. And I want to stress that this is a very space-conscious time.” Clara Rockmore

(Translation: Matteo Salval)

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