In a rare 1991 film, Lev Sergeyevich Termen joined an all-star assemblage of composers from Russia and the US in Theremin’s Moscow apartment.
It’s an extraordinary piece of history. From the USA, composers John Chowning, Paul Lansky, and George Lewis had evidently just finished a tour of the USSR. Theremin’s daughter Natasha and Russian composer Vladimir Komarov translated and filmed. (That’s Komarov the prominent composer – see his long list of works – not to be confused with the famous pilot at cosmonaut.)
And the inventor of the instrument that bore his name, Leon Theremin aka Lev Termen, sat surrounded by his inventions. He would outlast the Soviet Union, which would be proclaimed dissolved by the end of that year.
All of it is extraordinary, including seeing these American greats gleefully meeting the inventor and playing with the instrument. But stay for the end, as you get an explanation of the instrument from Termen himself. It’s also interesting that he describes his education as being not only electronics, but physics, astronomy, and ‘cello. It seems a fitting summary – an instrument using voltage, but connected to the cosmos and classical music history and voice, as well.
Of course, if you enjoy this, you should check out Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey, the 1993 documentary. It’s fine filmmaking even for those with no particular interest in electronic music – particularly the poignant reunion of Theremin and Clara Rockmore that makes up its final act. Those moments are simply human.