Wednesday, March 9, 2016

a woman's achievement and goals: Clara Rockmore and Leon Theremin


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Clara Rockmore's Lost Theremin Album
Clara Rockmore (born Reisenberg, March 9, 1911 – May 10, 1998[1]) was a virtuosa performer of the theremin, an electronic musical instrument.[2][3][4][5][6]


Early years

Rockmore was born as Clara Reisenberg to a Jewish family in Vilnius, Vilna Governorate, Russian Empire (now Lithuania).[7] Early in her childhood she emerged as a violin prodigy and joined the Saint Petersburg Conservatory at the age of five, where she studied violin under the prominent Hungarian violinist Leopold Auer. After moving to the United States, Rockmore enrolled at the Curtis Institute of Music. As a teenager she was affected by tendinitis in her bow arm, attributed to childhood malnutrition, and was obliged to give up the violin. However, after meeting Léon Theremin and being introduced to his electronic instrument theremin, she became its most prominent player, performing widely and helping Theremin to refine his instrument.[8][9]


Rockmore made orchestral appearances in New York and Philadelphia and went on coast-to-coast tours with Paul Robeson, but it was not until 1977 that she released a commercial recording called The Art of the Theremin. The album, which was produced by Bob Moog and Shirleigh Moog, featured Rockmore's theremin playing with piano accompaniment by her sister Nadia Reisenberg.[10] Rockmore’s approach to theremin playing emphasized physical and emotional control.[11] As she described it herself in an interview: “You cannot register any of your internal emotion at all. You cannot shake your head, for instance, or sway back and forth on your feet. That would change your tone.”[11]

Personal life

Rockmore and Léon Theremin
Although Léon Theremin had proposed to her several times, she married attorney Robert Rockmore, and thereafter used his name professionally.[12]
She died in New York City on May 10, 1998, at age 87. Though her health had been in rapid decline for almost a year, she professed her determination to live to see the birth of her grandniece, who was born just two days before her death.[10]

Contributions to the theremin

Clara Rockmore playing the theremin
Rockmore's classical training gave her an advantage over the many other theremin performers of the time. The intonation control she acquired as a violinist and her innate absolute pitch were both helpful in playing the instrument.[10] She had extremely precise, rapid control of her movements, important in playing an instrument that depends on the performer's motion and proximity rather than touch. She developed a unique technique for playing the instrument, including a fingering system that allowed her to perform accurately fast passages and large note leaps without the more familiar portamento, or glide, on theremin.[13] She also discovered that she could achieve a steadier tone and control the vibrato by keeping the tips of her right-hand thumb and forefinger in contact.[11]

Developmental influence

Rockmore saw limitations of the original instrument and helped to develop the instrument to fulfill her needs, and because of her close personal relationship with Léon Theremin, she was able to influence the design and evolution of the instrument, suggesting changes such as lowering the profile of the instrument so the performer is more visible, increasing the sensitivity of the pitch antenna, and increasing range from three octaves to five.[13]

Public influence

By the time Rockmore was playing large scale public concerts such as New York City's Town Hall in 1938, she was becoming increasingly known for impressing critics with her artistry of the theremin during a time in which much of the general public had come to rather negative conclusions of what was possible on the instrument.[4]
On 9th March 2016 Google published a Google Doodle about her as Google did for Robert Moog in 2012.[14]
Clara's RCA theremin, given to her and later modified by Theremin himself (also modified by Robert Moog) can be viewed at the Artist's Gallery of the Musical Instruments Museum in Phoenix, Arizona. The instrument is on loan by the Sherman family.