Yesterday saw me hop on a train and head up to sunny Scarborough to perform at the fabulous HANDS OFF! 2011 Theremin Symposium. I am now back home and settled again, and wanted to tell you a bit about it.

First up was an evening of outdoor Theremin dabbling, recording of the “Theremin Hellos”, where each performer recorded a ditty to say hello to the festival, drinking, eating, chatting and my performance of Steve Reich’s Pendulum Music for torches and Optical Theremins.

The setting was amazing. We took up the space inside and outside the café on top of Oliver’s Mount. The view and sunset were fabulous. This really got everyone in the right frame of mind and provided some great photo opportunities.

Anthony Springall, event organiser

Soon, after a couple of pints of the specially prepared Theremin ale (apparently the pump on the first night operated like a Theremin when you pulled it!), it was time for my performance. I set up my rig, asked for four volunteers to perform and away we went. There is probably more footage to come in due course but John Allsopp made a nice recording of it, which is below (thanks!). It includes a lot of waffle from me at the start, which might be worth listening to if you don’t know the piece already…

Note: there were a couple of sound system / lead issues which caused some crackling and volume fluctation. Sorry.

A special thank you to Valentin Ganin (and Kate Sugden) from Aston University who very kindly helped to design and build these new optical Theremins. They were specially made for this event, just in time, because they produce a nice sine wave, which is more akin to a real Theremin than my old square wave mk1s. They made for a much more subtle piece, which I thought fitted well in the context of this event. THANKS!

Afterwards, there was much pub and club banter, with a right-on bunch of “outsiders”.

Today was about Theremin lessons. I had booked mine with Lydia Kavina. I wanted to meet her more formally to discuss one of my favourite albums with her, which she performed on, Messer Chups “Crazy Price”. First though, my lesson, which I am told went very well. It was great fun to play but rather like scratching your head and patting your tummy at the same time, or whichever way round you are meant to do it.

We chatted about Messer Chups. We chatted about my Glatze EP and I gave Lydia a copy. We got on well. That’s nice when it’s someone you admire so greatly. Oh, and her playing was divine. I sat in on another lesson afterwards and she played a couple of classical Theremin pieces. Amazing accuracy and such feel. I was frankly awestruck! This was the the piece she played…

Time for some lunch and a big goodbye to all the lovely people at the festival, and off I went, or so I thought…

Before I could leave I was interviewed by the charming chaps that had volunteered to shoot a documentary about the whole event. I’m going to look like a right fan boy (which basically I am) as I was wearing my Supersonic t-shirt and my Home of Metal badge – hehe.

Homeward bound! I travelled by train too, which meant my journeys were productive. I wrote some process pieces of my own that I am really happy with and dabbled with making some new Reaktor instruments. Nice!

A thoroughly pleasant and inspirational trip away. Thanks to all involved for inviting me and bringing this great event together!

Finally, a few more photographs…

(Scary) Gordon Charlton, event organiser

Lydia Kavina, Barbara Buchholz and Carolina Eyck

A drunken novice, spinning out ;)


  1. Hi Mr Underwood. I can’t say I know much (anything!) about Theremins, but really enjoyed your post. Especially the photos and the video. I’ve never heard anything like it. Found the sound kinda hypnotising. Keep up the great work :)

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