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Jack Hertz

Topic: Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey

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Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey is a 1993 documentary film directed by Steven M. Martin about the life of Leon Theremin and his invention, the theremin, a pioneering electronic musical instrument. It follows his life, including being imprisoned in a Soviet Gulag, and the influence of his instrument, which came to define the sound of eerie in 20th-century movies, and influenced popular music as it searched for and celebrated electronic music in the 1960s.

In the 1920s and 30s, Russian emigre Leonard Theremin the inventor of the world's first electronic musical instrument had it all. His self-named the remains were in high demand from filmmakers and musicians around the globe, he was married to a beautiful American dancer, he lived among New York's social elite. And then, in 1938, he mysteriously vanished, not to be seen again for over 50 years.

One of the first electronic instruments, the eponymous theremin (the sound of which quickly became cliched in science fiction films as the accompaniment to shots of flying saucers). The instrument produced its unusual sounds by using the player's hands to control the signals of an electromagnetic field. It's Russian-born inventor, Leon Theremin, went from playing his instrument for Lenin to breaking into show business in New York. Kidnapped by the K.G.B. in the late 1930s, Theremin was spirited back to the Soviet Union and forced to work on more espionage-related technology. The film reunites the inventor with his thereminist-protégée, Clara Rockmore, before his death in 1993.

Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey won the Documentary Filmmakers Trophy at the 1994 Sundance Film Festival. It was also nominated for an International Emmy as well as a BAFTA, the Huw Wheldon Award for the Best Arts Programme, one of the British Academy Television Awards. Theremin was named to the Top Ten Films of the Year lists in Los Angeles, Boston, and Washington DC, and was invited to almost every important film festival in the world, including The New York Film Festival, set a record for the longest question and answer period at the National Gallery in Washington, and was shown by invitation of the Russian Ministry of Culture to top scientists in St. Petersburg.

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