Archive
2013
January
February
March
May
July
2012
January
February
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November
December
2011
July
August
October
November
December
Jul. 13, 2011

Infrared Theremin Turns Beams of Light Into Music

by Ian Chant

Fans of classic sci-fi movies (we’re safe in assuming there are at least a couple of you out there, right?) will know the theremin well. Among the earliest ventures into electronic music, the notoriously difficult to master instrument converts electrical signals into sound – most notably the tremulous ‘oooooo-weeeee-ooooooo’ associated with the arrival of UFOs in early science fiction films. And since theremin players manipulate the electronic fields generated by the instrument’s antennae to play it, they never actually touch the instrument themselves, making it just as intriguing and bizarre to watch as it is to hear.

As cool as it is, after almost a hundred years of making weird noises, the theremin is due for an update. That’s where the guys at DIY site PyroElectro come in. They’ve developed a simplified miniature theremin that can be played by manipulating beams of infrared light. Check out the video below to see the device in action.


Yeah, we know – it sounds a little wonky. And it certainly doesn’t have the otherworldly feel that made the theremin such a fitting instrument to score classic films like The Day The Earth Stood Still and The Thing From Another World. But such is the price you pay for the ability to make music with beams of infrared light, which, we think you’ll agree, is pretty neat. Also neat is the fact that tech-minded musicians can build their own infrared theremin from instructions on the site.

And ultimately, even if it could use a little fine-tuning, this theremin is certainly more pleasant than the other major development in music technology this week – an articulated, disembodied robotic mouth. That sings. Kind of. Brave souls can take a look here, but just to be clear – this is truly the stuff that nightmares are made of. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Post on Twitter
Share on Facebook
Follow SciArts on Pinterest
About Ian Chant

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Science Friday.

Science Friday® is produced by the Science Friday Initiative, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Science Friday® and SciFri® are registered service marks of Science Friday, Inc. Site design by Pentagram; engineering by Mediapolis.

 

topics