Sound of the Theramin
The experiment of music in Scotland
I love the sound of the words ‘Ondes Martenot’. Close your eyes and repeat after me, ‘Ondes Martenot’. It’s all in the ‘Ondes’, which is French for wave. That final ‘t’ is silent, but what the words describe most certainly is not.
Way back when, in 1928 to be precise, it was a bumper year for the invention of early electronic instruments. Maurice Martenot unleashed his Ondes Martenot the same year that the pesky Léon Theremin gave us the undoubtedly better known and equally eponymous Theremin. Both sounded similar, and spooky too, that would be the heterodyning oscillators inside, but for sheer bravado the Theremin won hands down as it required no human contact when being played. The Theremin emits an eerie and frankly bizarre sound much beloved of composers of movie soundtracks like the original version of The Day The Earth Stood Still.
Now, over ninety years on, I still love these kinds of experimental instruments but I have to admit I can be rather divided about experimental music. So I’m looking forward to November as it’s definitely a month to get to grips with new music here in Scotland. The 5th Sound Festival of New Music is taking place across the North East of Scotland from 28 October to 22 November. Bill Thompson’s Resonant Frequencies weekender stands out, in part for its exploration of the crossover between percussion and live electronics but also for the delicious-sounding solo set and duet by Mark Westall and Will Guthrie in the lens gallery of the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses in Fraserburgh.
Beyond the festival itself Sound are collaborating with pianocircus on a six month secondary school education project that aims to develop new approaches to keyboard use and technology. We like this. It’s sustaining and developing skills in the region. We hosted a performance by the piano and keyboard legend that is Stephen Grew at Inspace in Edinburgh last month. He toyed with our baby grand and he was brilliant, as were the rest of the performers. It was just one of ten 10th anniversary concerts that are forming this year’s Dialogues Festival. Inspace has provided a challenge for the Dialogues guys. It’s acoustically bright but it’s proved to be a veritable jewel box as the evenings draw in. We’ll get the balance right. Next up it’s composer and percussionist Lukas Ligeti (repeat twice) on 17 November at 8pm.