Peter Pringle performs Puccini’s O Mio Babbino Caro on theremin.
The videos I have posted to YouTube in the past that show me playing Samuel Hoffman’s RCA theremin were made when YouTube quality was not as good as it is today. Here is a theremin transcription of O MIO BABBINO CARO from Giacomo Puccini’s opera, GIANNI SCHICCHI. As you can see, I have taken the doors off the cabinet so I could zoom in on the old vacuum tubes that give the instrument its distinctive voice.
Doctor Hoffman used this theremin on the soundtracks of such classic films as THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL, SPELLBOUND, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS and many other suspense and SciFi movies of the late 1940’s and 1950’s. At that time, he modified the instrument for use in the recording studio by putting special audio output jacks on it so that external speakers could be plugged into the RCA theremin amplifier. For this recording, I used a CLARATONE speaker that was specially built by Florida vintage theremin expert Reid Welch (aka “Mr. Trubble”).
This speaker was designed to emulate the sound of the Jensen speaker used by the late, great theremin virtuosa, Clara Rockmore. Because Reid had been a personal friend of Clara Rockmore, he had the opportunity to study her instrument and her speaker set up. His CLARATONE has a 10 inch cone and a particularly warm, sweet and definitely human voice. Unfortunately, Reid only made a limited number of these custom speakers and I was lucky to get the very last one (which I purchased in 1998).
The speaker that is built into the cabinet of this unique theremin was placed so that it was facing away from the thereminist and on the floor. This is the very worst possible place for a theremin speaker because when you play, your speaker is the only way you can hear what you are doing. For best results, your theremin speaker should be placed at head level, behind or beside you, pointing toward you, and no further away than about six feet.
A friend of mine who was well acquainted with vintage radio technology used to call vacuum tubes “magical Inca fire bottles”.