April 2021 - Christophe Duquesne and Grégoire Blanc

 Christophe Duquesne and Gregoire Blanc

Christophe Duquesne (left) and Grégoire Blanc (right)

The April 2021 episode of the Theremin 30 podcast features music from Canada, Japan, and the USA. Rick Reid interviews Christophe Duquesne of La Voix du Luthier and thereminist Grégoire Blanc.

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FEATURED MUSIC*

*The full-length recordings featured in this show were used with the knowledge and permission of the artists and composers. Please support the artists by visiting their websites, purchasing their recordings, and attending their performances. 

ADDITIONAL MUSIC

INTERVIEW GUEST

CALENDAR OF THEREMIN EVENTS

MEDIA LINKS

CONTACT

CREDITS 

Copyright 2021 Rick Reid 

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TRANSCRIPT

David Brower  00:04

This is Theremin 30. Thirty minutes of theremin music, news, events, and interviews with a new episode about every 30 days. Now, here is your host from Denver, Colorado, USA, Rick Reid. 

Rick Reid  00:19

Well, hello there! This is episode 24 and the season three premiere of Theremin 30, the mostly monthly theremin music podcast. Thank you to all of the listeners, artists, and guests who have been along for the ride so far. And if you're new to the show, I encourage you to listen to all of the previous episodes for some great music and conversation. You can find a list with the links to all of the episodes on the website, Theremin30.com. In this episode, I've got new music from Canada, Japan, and the USA. And I'm happy to have as my interview guests this month Christophe Duquesne and Grégoire Blanc. They'll be visiting with me about some gorgeous high-end speakers from France that you can pair with your Moog Claravox Centennial theremin when that arrives sometime eventually.

Now let's start with some music. In a few minutes, I've got a brand new release from Japan Theremin Old School. But first, I've got the latest release from Stephen Hamm, Vancouver, Canada's "theremin man." The psychedelic rock track I'm about to play for you is available as a collectible 7-inch vinyl single. You can order it from Stephen's website. To get there, follow the link in this month's show notes. Now crank up your headphones and "Listen to the Sound of the Sun."

Rick Reid  10:07

We began the show with Stephen Hamm, "theremin man," with "Listen to the Sound of the Sun," the A-side from his current vinyl single release. Then we heard French composer Maurice Ravel's "Pavane pour une infante défunte" or "Pavane for a Dead Princess," the lead track of Renaissance and Evolution, a brand-new album produced by Masami Takeuchi of Mandarin Electron. It features recordings by two of Masami's theremin music projects, Japan Theremin Old School, and the 100-member matryomin ensemble Mabel and Da. For links to buy either of these tracks click on the artists' names in this month's show notes.

Rick Reid  10:47

It's time now for the Theremin 30 calendar of theremin events. On Sunday evenings through May 16, members of the Itchy-O marching band host a series of online electronic meditation sessions. The music history documentary Sisters with Transistors is available for streaming on-demand through mid-May. It features a segment about Clara Rockmore. On May 21 and 22nd Devotchka headlines two free concerts right here in Denver, Colorado. Also on May 22nd, the New York Theremin Society hosts a pair of online workshops with Dorit Chrysler. For details about these and other theremin-related events around the world, visit the calendar page on Theremin30.com.

Rick Reid  11:28

Later in the show, I'll play some theremin-infused piano jazz from Yelena Eckemoff. And after this break, we'll hear from loudspeaker designer Christophe Duquesne and thereminist Grégoire Blanc. So stay tuned.

Rick Reid  11:53

When Moog Music announced the Claravox Centennial theremin last Fall, they released a video featuring French thereminist Grégoire Blanc playing "Claire de Lune" on a prototype unit. In the video, he's playing through a beautiful pyramid-shaped amplified speaker from a French company called La Voix du Luthier or The Luthier's Voice. I've been seeing that speaker at music industry trade shows over the last few years along with another design called the Onde. So I thought it might be interesting to have their co-designer Christophe Duquesne on the podcast this month to tell us about them. And joining us is Grégoire Blanc to give us some insight from a thereminist's perspective. Christophe, tell me about how your company La Voix du Luthier got started and what's your involvement with it.

Christophe Duquesne  12:39

I'm also involved in Haken Audio on the development of the Continuum. I'm working on physical modeling. And there was always something I was not happy with. That was the sound of the speakers. And it happened that I met a stringed instrument maker. His name is Marc Lucas. He is also from France, too. And he was trying to embed some electronics in his instruments. That was a perfect match. And so we decided to work together. And for me, that was really the way to connect my electronic instrument and physical modeling stuff with the traditional skills of instrument makers. I'm not really the first to do this. Maurice Martenot already did this quite a long time ago. So that was also a kind of continuation of his work.

Rick Reid  13:21

I've seen your speakers at a NAMM Show a couple of years ago. They're beautiful. And what I thought was: it's a regular speaker in a beautiful cabinet. But there's actually more to it than that, right?

Christophe Duquesne  13:31

In fact, we don't call them "speakers" because there is no speaker inside. It's really fully built of wood with the same technique as you build soundboards for piano or for guitars. On the soundboard, you have transducers that are transmitting the vibration to the wood. So what you're hearing is really the vibration of the wood itself exactly as you hear it when you listen to a guitar. What you hear is is not the string. What you hear is the soundboard. The string itself is not loud enough. On an acoustic guitar, you have a bridge and the bridge transmits the vibration to the soundboard. And that's exactly the same thing we are doing. Instead of a bridge, we have exciters. An exciter is basically a magnet with a coil. When you put it on the wood then it transmits vibration as the bridge does on the guitar.

Rick Reid  14:16

So you have the Pyramide, which is a pyramid-shaped resonator with an amplifier, and the Onde is shaped somewhat like a grand piano. How do the two different systems sound different from each other? And how do they affect the sound of the instrument going into it?

Christophe Duquesne  14:32

Basically, you will have more low-end sound on the Pyramide and more sharper sound on the Onde. The Pyramide is also a bit louder. But some people prefer the Onde or they prefer the Pyramide. That's really a matter of taste, mainly. One is bigger than the other. The Onde is something you can carry like a guitar. It's very light. It's 2 and a half kilos. And so there's no trouble. The head of the Pyramide, the main resonator, is  6 kilos and the base is nearly 10. So, usually people just keep them in one single place.

Rick Reid  15:01

So, Grégoire, how do you use your speaker? Do you take it to gigs or is it mainly for use at home?

Grégoire Blanc  15:07

I got my...

Rick Reid  15:08

Oh! I called it a speaker. I'm sorry, your resonator...

Grégoire Blanc  15:12

I got mine just after the COVID started so I didn't have the opportunity to really perform gigs with it. Here what is interesting is that we can play purely acoustically. If you have a concert with other acoustic instruments and you don't want microphones and amplifiers for all the instruments, you can treat your theremin as if it were a pure, acoustic instrument. It's just amazing because you really get the feeling of a violin or something like that. And it definitely changes something, not necessarily in the way you play the theremin, but in the way you relate to it and the way you feel the sound. And it's a much more intimate, acoustic way to perform the theremin. The theremin is an electronic music instrument, right? But the way it is played by the musician like the ondes Martenot or the Continuum, it is very expressive in itself, so much closer to traditional musical instruments. So an acoustic amplifier brings the theremin back to a more classical root, I would say.

Christophe Duquesne  16:14

Unlike a speaker, which is very directional, a soundboard is omni-directional. When you play a violin in a classical venue you can hear the violin in all of the venue. It's not loud, but you hear it all over. And the Onde and the Pyramide behave exactly the same way because it uses the same principle as a violin or a piano. You can really hear them all over a venue. And if you're in a good classical venue, you don't need to go through an amplifier. You really can hear it as any other acoustic instrument.

Grégoire Blanc  16:40

I should mention, also, that these resonators are absolutely great to amplify other electronic sources. And with synthesizers, it's amazing.

Rick Reid  16:50

A lot of listeners, including me, have ordered the Claravox Centennial theremin. And it occurred to me that once I've spent probably the most money I will ever spend on a theremin, maybe I should have a good way to listen to it. And I saw the demo video that you had made, Grégoire, with the pyramid speaker. And I was wondering, are you getting inquiries from people who are planning to get a Claravox and want to learn more about the Onde and the Pyramide resonator to go with it?

Grégoire Blanc  17:19

Yeah. Definitely. It was interesting because when Moog contacted me to be part of the Claravox program and mentioned this demo video, I had this exact same feeling as you. It's a wonderful theremin. It's been a very long time since Moog did a professional theremin. And we were playing in such a very special place, the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, here in France. So immediately I thought about Christophe and the Pyramide. It was absolutely beautiful for the place and also the look, in itself, of the Pyramide was really going well with the look of the Claravox. And acoustically, it was wonderful. We mic'd the Pyramide with two microphones close to the Pyramide and also we used the global ambient mics for the theremin and the piano together. And it was naturally resonating in the standing acoustics of the place. So it totally made sense to have an acoustic resonator for this specific purpose. And yeah, it really brought some interest from people. I got plenty of messages, of course, questions about the Claravox, but also about the Pyramide from La Voix du Luthier. I didn't expect just by bringing a Pyramide with the Claravox to make it feel that natural. But it actually is. And I'm sure that a lot of people would have been inspired to think about "which speaker should we use for theremin?" And yeah, definitely the resonators from La Voix du Luthier are very, very, interesting options.

Rick Reid  18:50

Gregoire, can you share an example of how the resonator affects the sound of your performance on theremin?

Grégoire Blanc  18:56

Yeah, definitely. So I prepared for you two little samples. One of the Claravox dry. A very simple melody that you can hear now.

Grégoire Blanc  19:34

And this other one, it is recorded through the Onde speaker. I placed a microphone just in front of the resonator. And you can see that the sound is a little bit different.

Grégoire Blanc  20:14

What I usually do is that I split the output of my theremin to record both a dry signal to the DAW and a wet signal that goes through the Onde and a microphone. And then I can just add the touch of wood I want to the sound. Definitely the sound is very interesting to have with a theremin.

Grégoire Blanc  20:34

Thank you so much for taking the time to visit with me. I really have my eye on the Onde in particular. That's something that is on my shopping list for the future.

Christophe Duquesne  20:43

Thank you very much for your invitation. That was really a pleasure to talk together today.

Rick Reid  20:47

Now let's finish this segment of the podcast with a longer demo recording Grégoire made just for this show using his Onde resonator. Here is an excerpt from Tchaikovsky's "Nocturne" op. 19, no. 4.

Rick Reid  22:14

There's more theremin music coming up on the season 3 premiere episode of Theremin 30. So stick around.

Rick Reid  22:32

Let's end this third season premiere show with a wonderful track that's perfect for Spring. It's from Adventures of the Wildflower, the latest album by North Carolina-based jazz pianist and composer Yelena Eckemoff. The double album tells the musical story of the life of a columbine flower. Eckemoff recorded the album in Finland, and her band features Jorma Saari on guitar, glass harp, and theremin. Here is the lead-off track called "In the Ground."

Rick Reid  29:11

Thank you to Stephen Hamm, Japan Theremin Old School, and Yelena Eckemoff for sharing their new music with us. Also thanks to interview guests Christophe Duquesne of La Voix du Luthier and thereminist Grégoire Blanc. Coming up in the May episode, I plan to have new music from Javier Diez Ena, Charlie Draper, and maybe you, So be sure to subscribe to the show through your favorite podcast app and let me know if you have theremin music I can play on the show. Until next time, I'm your host, Rick Reid. Please continue to follow the pandemic restrictions in your area so we can all safely get together again soon. And in the meantime, I'll see you around on Facebook and Twitter.

David Brower  29:51

You've been listening to the Theremin 30 podcast. Visit Theremin 30 on the web at Theremin30.com.