Details on the theremins & synths used below.
First of all, I’m sorry this video is so long but I wanted to sing all the verses of it that I could find. Leonard Cohen (who wrote the song) said that he wished people would stop singing it but you might as well ask people to stop looking at the Mona Lisa! In its genre, this song is a masterpiece.
I discovered Leonard Cohen back in the early 60’s when a family friend gave my parents a copy of LOVE WHERE THE NIGHTS ARE LONG, a collection of the works of Cohen and his friend and mentor, the late, brilliant Irving Layton. I had never really appreciated poetry until I read that book. Perhaps what has always impressed me most about Leonard Cohen’s work is his ability to be distant and objective about his subject while resting quietly in its heart.
There are two theremins in this video, Samuel Hoffman’s 1929 RCA and the Moog MIDI Ethervox. I have never been able to sing and accurately play the theremin at the same time, so verse three (where I play the Hoffman RCA) is the only verse where I did not sing live. The MIDI theremin (which you see on verse five) is fairly easy to play while singing. Simple gestures of the arm trigger sounds from a separate MIDI module (in this case a Roland JV 2080).
The keyboard on this video is a Korg Triton Extreme (doubled with a Roland Fantom XR). The advantage of an electronic keyboard over an acoustic piano is that there is no leakage into the vocal mike when a singer is playing and singing at the same time. Nothing will ever replace a good Steinway but the latest generations of electronic keyboards are awesome!
The mike I used is a cordless Sennheiser that I have had for years. It was given to me by Sennheiser when they sponsored a tour in the 1980’s and it works as well today as it did when I got it.
Here’s a little bit of trivia you may not know about the RCA theremin in this video. According to Apollo astronaut Neil Armstrong’s biographer, Andrew Smith, Armstrong actually took a recording of this theremin with him into space for the moon landing in 1969. The previous owner of this instrument, Dr. Samuel Hoffman, used it on his 1947 recording, MUSIC OUT OF THE MOON. Neil Armstrong liked the sound of it so much that he made a cassette tape of it from his personal record collection and took it with him to the moon.
Andrew Smith ends his book, MOONDUST, with the following words, “…..when I’ve thought of Apollo, I’ve thought of him [Neil Armstrong] and his little band drifting out there toward the secret Moon…..spilling theremin music out at the stars.”