You’ve heard the Theremin as the eerily-beautiful musical instrument, but via the magic of pitch detection, it can be a controller for video, too. Sean McDonald of the Moog Foundation recently hooked up the original gestural, touchless controller to VDMX video software at the HATCHfest arts festival in Moog home base Asheville, North Carolina. The result: festival goers making sweet, sweet video mixes by waving their hands around the early 20th-Century invention.

The Theremin has a special connection to Moog, too; not only are the Moog Music Theremins arguably the best available, but it was making Theremin kits that helped inspire Bob Moog to go into synthesis. The rest is history, and as music and visuals continue to converge, I’d say there’s plenty of history left.

Want to try this yourself? We’ve done a couple of stories on the idea on our sister site Create Digital Music:

How to Turn Theremin into MIDI, Free with Pd
Theremin as AV Controller: Technical Details from Spacedog

If you’re not familiar with the Bob Moog Foundation, they’re a really terrific organization working to preserve the archives and legacy of the synthesis pioneer. That should be deeply important to visualists, too, as the modern VJ/live visual scene got its start in the 60s events at which synths first appeared, and our technologies often cross paths. (But I probably don’t have to convince you of that, do I?)

Guest blog: Live video remixing controlled by a theremin at HATCHfest [Bob Moog Foundation Blog]

Thanks to David Lublin of Vidvox for this one. Unfortunately, the documentation is pretty poor, so use your imagination while watching this video:

  • Hi there…

    This is Sean, the guy who setup this project with the Moog Foundation.

    A few things:

    First, thanks for posting & plugging the foundation! Really appreciate it.

    I'd be happy to provide more documentation on how I set it up. What do you want to know? Is there a forum or someplace that I can go to just post the VDMX project? I'm pretty new to this scene..

    I didn't set it up alone. I got help from J. Scott Furr, who is here in Asheville. This was actually my first time using the software and I needed his help to get the Audio Analysis working in conjunction with the filter settings.

    One small thing–this performance was actually at HATCHfest Bozeman (in Montana..) with a crew of folks from Asheville, which is where the Foundation is and where there will be HATCHfest Asheville in April '09.

    You can learn more about that at website.

    Also check out the Moog Foundation website at .

    We would LOVE to see other ways people use theremins as controllers for this and other innovations at the intersection of science and art.

    All the best,
    Sean McDonald

  • hi there.
    i would like to know if these video theremins are available to buy/rent for a tour i'm video directing next month. can anyone help?
    much thanks.