Pamelia Kurstin, Happy Birthday Mr. Theremin

In honor of it being Léon Theremin‘s birthday, this post is dedicated to the modern day Clara Rockmore, a fascinating woman by the name of Pamelia Kurstin.

She’s a theremin virtuoso. There have been, maybe, four of these. The instrument requires the player to stand perfectly still to keep in tune, and most previous players seem to carry that stoic nature past the instrument and into their personal lives as well.

Pamelia, on the other hand, is full of life and personality. Even verve, I daresay. Her incredible webpage, which is on Angelfire for chrissakes, which I didn’t even know still existed, and which she seems to have written largely while drunk, mentions her love of rollerskates. Also bird-punching. A friend of mine accidentally punched a seagull mid-flight once. It was a memorable experience. She also gives haircuts. Sometimes to dogs.

Pamelia plays many instruments and first stepped up to a theremin at 21. Though originally from Los Angeles, she currently resides in Vienna. Probably. She’s the thereminist of the excellent East European-ish band Barbez, and has gigged with David Byrne and Bela Fleck among others. She had a knockout TEDtalk with pianist Makoto Ozone, in which she demonstrates the versatility of the instrument beyond cheesy sci-fi scores and sound effects. She even does a standup bass!

In addition to the website she never updates, she also has a Myspace, a solo album, and even an obligatory past album with a past husband.

Aspen Tree
An insanely gorgeous sample MP3 from the 2007 Barbez release Force of Light. The combination of mallets and theremin are like little dancing fairies glowing too brightly to tell apart.

The Use of Black, a badass track of hers with King Crimson drummer Pat Mastelotto.

And finally, a fan-made video for her Theremin Orchestra, demonstrating the contemporary possibilities when someone actually takes the trouble to master the first electronic instrument ever invented, difficult as ever to play but still going strong. Thanks to Mr. Theremin for his breakthrough, and thanks to Pamelia and everyone like her for breathing life into a region of the world that we sometimes forget needed it. Music is awesome.

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