While poking through the history of synthesizer music, I stumbled upon charming vintage videos like the one above, in which you learn a little about the enthralling, ethereal-sounding theremin. Sounding like a marriage of the violin and a humming human voice, this early electronic instrument was created by Russian inventor Léon Theremin in the 1920s. As you see in the clip, performers would play the instrument through specific hand movements and positioning between two antennas, one of which controls pitch, and the other, volume. Because the human body holds an electric charge, the apparatus picks up the charge from those hand motions, resulting in a sound amplified through a speaker.
Theremin virtuoso Clara Rockmore. Image via Don’t Panic.
During my browsing, I also came across videos of theremin phenom Clara Rockmore (pictured above). Like the instrument of which she was a virtuoso, Clara is both obscure and enthralling. Once I discovered her, I developed a little bit of a girl crush. Like musical pioneer Delia Derbyshire (known for perfecting the Doctor Who theme), Clara Rockmore and Paula Mary are women we not only admire for their vintage looks, but for talent and mastery of a unique art that now excites and mystifies the curious.