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The theremin is probably the world's strangest and spookiest musical instrument ever made. It has no keys, no strings, just two metal rods that you don’t even touch. You just move your hands in the air around the device, and an eerie quivering, disembodied voice, like that of an opera singer, emerge from the instrument.

The theremin was an accident. In 1919, the young Russian physicist Lev Sergeyevich Termen, or Léon Theremin, as he is known in the west, was working on a high-frequency oscillator he built to measure the dielectric constant of gases. When Termen decided to add an audio circuitry to the device so that it emitted an audible tone when it took a reading, he discovered that the machine was not only responding to the dielectric constant of gases but of people around the machine as well. By changing the position of his hands or by moving around the device, Termen discovered that he could make his machine emit strange noises.

girl playing theremin

A woman playing the theremin in a concert in Istanbul, Turkey. Image credit: caner aytekin/Shutterstock.com


© Amusing Planet, 2020.



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