University of Pittsburgh

Elizabeth Brown on Arboretum and the Theremin

Composer Elizabeth Brown on the theremin. (Photo by Peter Schaff)

Composer Elizabeth Brown will perform on the theremin when the University of Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra premieres her composition Arboretum tonight at Bellefield Hall Auditorium. Here are Brown's thoughts on Arboretum and the theremin.

"Arboretum is a sonic grove within a forest of audience members. The music gradually brings both musicians and audience into a slow sync, the speed of tree-time, with all participating in the theremin's electronic field.

 "The theremin was invented in 1919 by Russian scientist and amateur cellist Leon Theremin. While working on an electronic burglar alarm, he discovered that the human body could change the frequency of radio waves — this gave him the idea to build a musical instrument which would free the player from all physical constraints. The theremin is played by interrupting radio waves flowing between one’s body and the two antennae - the vertical pitch antenna and the horizontal volume antenna. The thereminist must tune to and play the whole room, since the instrument responds to both the space and the mass of the occupants. In this sense, the theremin is extremely interconnected with its environment; combined with the strings and the presence of an audience, it cogently and dynamically represents a living, complex ecosystem."

Don't miss out on the opportunity to hear this new piece and unique instruments. The free concert also includes the premiere of Michael Boyd's Objectification, Frances White's Centre Bridge (dark river), John Cage's Living Room Music, and Johannes Brahms' Variations on a Theme by Joseph Haydn.

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