January 01, 2012

The Soviet Faust

The Soviet Faust

A sorrowful moan in the wilderness... sobbing... the wind in a drainpipe... an echo hurled into the sky... the divination of an invisible shaman...

This is what Music of Breath sounds like, a work by composer and renowned theremin player Olesya Rostovskaya. Watching her hands at work as she performs, it is as if she is stitching an airy canvas of glass beads. She’s conducting music of the celestial sphere... officiating at an inscrutable sacred ritual.

During her tours, audience members often ask Rostovskaya how she transforms her voice. They take the timbre of the instrument for some type of cosmic vocalization, something between an angel’s voice and a stringed instrument – now edgy, now perfectly calm. But the theremin, the strange instrument that debuted in Moscow in 1921, has nothing to do with the human voice.

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