In the cold days of February, 1991, while
Saddam Hussein was hurling Scuds at Israel, I was in Russia on a
tour of Saratov and Moscow with Sara Caldwell, John Chowning, George
Lewis and a number of performers. We were the first contingent in
a series of visits by American musicians that Sarah conducted that
year. Obviously we were the 'electronic' contingent. Toward the
end of our stay in Moscow, John Chowning arranged a visit with the
95 year-old Leon Theremin.
It was bitterly cold as we climbed three
flights of stairs in his building to a two-room apartment, scantily
furnished, but with a 'Theremin' built by Theremin (with vacuum
tubes!) sitting in the middle of the living room, as well as a piano,
and a christmas tree.One of his twin daughters was there, as was
Victor Komorov, a genial Russian composer who accompanied us, and
our translator. We spent about an hour or so chatting with him,
and of course we all got to try and play the Theremin. I went first
and Theremin himself gave me a short lesson, as the attached Quicktime
video will demonstrate. George Lewis had a camera with him, and
filmed most of our trip, fortunately.
Our visit to Theremin in Moscow was followed
up by his visit to Stanford the following year for the Stanford
Centennial celebration. That too was memorable. We were there when
the 97 year-old Nicholas Slonimsky greeted Theremin by saying (in
Russian--Richard Taruskin translated for us) "I'm even older
than you are."
Here is a photo of a conversation with Theremin,
myself, Chris Chafe and Victor Komorov at Stanford.
and, during the Stanford event,
at John Chowning's house, Bob Moog, myself and John.