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Barbara Buchholz - Theremin: Russia With Love

By Barbara Buchholz

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Composed by Barbara Buchholz, Tichon Nikolajewitsch Chrennikow, Tilmann Dehnhard, Jan Krause, and Matthias Trippner. Recording mediums. CD. Duration 46' 17''. MDS (Music Distribution Services) #INT 33822. Published by MDS (Music Distribution Services) (M7.INT-33822).

Item Number: M7.INT-33822

Music And Magic Have Always Been Inseparable From One AnotherBut the magic of any other instrument is not as obvious as that of the Theremin. One must have an affinity to magic in order to simply play the Theremin. All other instruments, including the most exotic, are played by touching them, by blowing, bowing, hitting, plucking, scratching or pressing. The Theremin is the only instrument from which sound is enticed without touching it.The Berlin-based musician, Barbara Buchholz, first made her name as a Jazz bass played, before discovering the Theremin and studying under Lydia Kavina in Moscow. 'I first saw a Theremin at the beginning of the 90s, when I saw Lydia perform Tom Wait's 'Alice',' explains Barbara Buchholz. 'This sound burned itself into my brain, but I was not in a position to create it at that time. There were no Theremins on the market, and I had no idea how I could get one or learn how to play it. But then I met Lydia Kavina. It became clear that I would have to go to Moscow and get intensively involved in the instrument. Playing the Theremin bundles all of my musical experiences. I wasn't just a bass player, but sang and studied the flute. The Theremin is a pool in which all of that can be found.'The Theremin is the mother of all electronic instruments. Invented in the 1920s by the Russian physicist Lev Theremin, the instrument, with its two antennas, looks like the clumsy ancestor of today's extraterrestrial. The antennas create an energy field in which sounds can be created by the movement of the hands. In 1934, Edgar Varese composed a piece for the Theremin, but its sound became infinitely more popular when Alfred Hitchcock employed it in his film 'Spellbound', for which none other than Salvador Dali designed the sets for the dream sequences. But how the instrument is played is even more interesting than its history. It functions like a reversed ballet. Normally, one plays music to incite movement, but you have to dance to get sounds out of the Theremin. 'It is a very poetic way of playing. You elegantly raise your hand and get the loudest sound without hitting or scratching something. Everything is light and dance-like. Every musician has a physical relationship to his instrument. One likes something in his mouth, the other prefers something in his hands. For me it feels as if I have always played the Theremin. I don't have to think about anything.'Perhaps it is no coincidence that Barbara Buchholz to the Theremin via the bass, because both instruments require not only the use of body openings and extremities to play them, but the entire body. Barbara Buchholz is fascinated by the differences as much as by the similarities of the two instruments. 'With the bass I have an earthier feeling, but one is still 'grounded' with the Theremin. I am fascinated by the complete concentration required to play the Theremin. You can't intone with the instrument unless fully immerse yourself in it. There are no finger placements that you can practice until you have them don. You have to be inside the sound the entire time. Playing the Theremin is pure intuition.'Barbara Buchholz captivates the listener with the Theremin's unique, exotic, and as futuristic as nostalgic charm. But thanks to her experience with other instruments there is no danger of falling into kitsch or esoteric, which the seductive sound of this instrument implies. Her works are warm and complex, and never does the sound dominate the music. Barbara Buchholz has developed a completely new, natural association to the Theremin. She works with samples and Jazz structures. 'There are enough people who see the Theremin as a nostalgic instrument and do the same things with it as at the time it was invented, namely playing music from the Romantic period. There were no compositions for the Theremin. Even Lev Theremin played Romantic repertoire on it. It was meant to be compared to the violin, but was compared with something that it could never be. That must not be repeated. To me it is a completely contemporary instrument. You feel the electronics, but see the person behind it. In light of the high technical standards of the 90s, I find it exciting and absolutely refreshing. That you can now have electronic music and human charm in one.'If the sound of the Theremin can be compared with any other instrument, then the singing saw. It has a magical sound, and Barbara Buchholz freely admits that she is in love with that magic. The LP title also sound magical. 'Russia With Love'', of course, draws an association to the James Bond film with almost the same title. But Barbara Buchholz breaks away from the romanticism of the Cold War and brings it into the present. 'My trips to Russia were necessary in order to get back to the roots and to explore the roots of the instrument. I got to know a lot of artists with who I work and will continue to work. I have never experienced another country with so many dichotomies. There is no middle ground in Russia. There are the poor and the rich, melancholy and punk, the dissonant and the beautiful. Nothing in between. My music is an echo of this time. Snapshots of various moods. The album was supposed to be more contradictory in the beginning, placing Punk next to the melodic side. We recorded wild noise improvisation, which in the end weren't used.'And that is just fine, because 'Russia With Love' is, from beginning to end, a unified journey through space and time, warmth and coldness, memories and intuition, as well as 'humanness and technology. I feel as if I were singing. I often sing internally. Lydia Kavina once said, that vibrations and the Theremin's weaknesses are also its strength. You can do with it whatever you want. That is very consoling for me.'Further information about the Theremin and Barbara Buchholz you will find on the following

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