May 2019 - Jason Barile

The May 2019 episode of the Theremin 30 podcast features music from Mexico, USA, and England. Rick Reid's interview guest is Jason Barile, founder of, possibly the world's first website about theremins.

*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. 

Copyright 2019 Rick Reid



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's your host from Denver, Colorado, USA, Rick Reid.

Rick Reid 00:19  

Hello and welcome to Theremin 30. Every month I feature theremin music mostly from unsigned artists around the world who have all given me permission to play their recordings on the podcast. I also let you know about upcoming theremin concerts, workshops, and festivals, and I'll visit with a special guest. This month. My guest is Jason Barile, the founder of, probably one of the oldest websites dedicated to the theremin. Coming up, I've got music from right here in Denver, Colorado. First, let's start things off with some music from Mexico City. From his album called Cosmo: Theremin Music, this is Ernesto Mendoza with "Tesla."

Rick Reid 09:15  

We started that set with "Tesla" by Ernesto Mendoza, then we heard from Victoria Lundy with the title track of her 2015 solo album, Miss American Vampire. Victoria is arguably the most versatile and busy theremin player in Colorado. She performs with the highly entertaining indie rock band the Inactivists and several different experimental music projects. We'll feature one of her tunes with the Inactivists in the June episode. It's time now for the Theremin 30 calendar of theremin events. There are a bunch of great theremin-related concerts, workshops, and festivals this month and into June. Here are just a few you may want to check out. Lydia Kavina will accompany that The 1932 silent film The Idea being screened on May 4 and fifth at the Brompton cemetery chapel in the Kensington district of London. She will also be among the presenters in a two-day theremin and ondes Martenot workshop on the Oxford University campus May 11 and 12th. Also on May 11, Thorwald Jørgensen will be performing in Chicago at the Ravinia Festival. He also has concerts coming up in the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Spain. Meanwhile, Charlie Draper, Pamelia Stickney, Dorit Chrysler, and Sarah Rice also have gigs over the next several weeks. And on May 23, Bob Moog's birthday, the Bob Moog Foundation will open the doors of their new Moogseum, which I'm told will feature several different pyramids designed by Dr. Moog and an exhibit about the pioneering work of Leon Theremin. The 23rd will be the soft opening of the museum, with a grand opening event set for Professor Theremin's birthday in August. Go to and follow the links for more details on all of these events and many more. And if you have an event you would like to put on the calendar, send in all the details using the contact form on One of the events on this month's calendar is a May 12th performance by Duet for Theremin and Lap Steel. I recently got to meet thereminist Scott Burland. Here's a track that he and bandmate Frank Schultz were kind enough to send me to play on the podcast. It's called Serpentariae.

Rick Reid 15:32  

There's more music to come on the Theremin 30 podcast and I'll visit with Jason Barile, the founder of So stay tuned.

Rick Reid 16:10  

Remember, you can find links to all of the artists featured on this podcast at And be sure to subscribe to Theremin 30 on Stitcher or wherever else you get your podcasts. Let's get back into the music now with Modersohn-Becker, one of several aliases used by London UK artist and musician Greta Pistacecci. This track is called "Not" from her Wrong album.

Rick Reid 19:02

My special guest this month is Jason Barile, founder of I caught up with him during Moogfest in Durham, North Carolina. Thanks, Jason, for being on Theremin 30.

Jason Barile 19:15

Well, thanks, Rick. This is great opportunity. I really appreciate you having me on the show.

Rick Reid 19:20  

To start out with for people who haven't seen your website give us a basic overview of what it is and how people use it.

Jason Barile 19:27  

Theremin World is the website. It's a community for theremin players and theremin builders from all over the world. We have forums where people trade ideas for how to play the theremin, which theremins they like and don't like, how to build theremin circuits. There's been a lot of debate over the years of various types of circuit design for theremins and it's been fascinating to watch the evolution of that. And it's a great place to come and hear some theremin music and discover theremin artists you might not have heard of.

Rick Reid 19:52  

So how did you personally get involved and interested in theremin?

Jason Barile 19:55  

When I was in college, I had very little spending money. So I volunteered for the concert committee, which was a group of students who basically provided free roadie services when bands would come to perform. And as a thank you for working, they let us get into all the shows for free. And so I was at a show, I think it was for They Might Be Giants and the band Pere Ubu opened. Because I got in free, it was general admission, I was on the front row. And they held a theremin up over the front row so we could interact with it and play with it during one of the songs. I was fascinated. I was instantly captivated. And thought I don't know what that is, kind of looks like they built it themselves. So I want to learn how to build one of those myself. And then I started asking around and did a little bit of research and started finding schematics in our school library. And right around that time Leon Theremin passed away. And there was a story on NPR., My parents heard that and called me and said, Oh, you should check this thing out. And they gave me a little bit of information that I hadn't heard as well. And around the same time, the World Wide Web became available to students there. And so I set up a little homepage, it was a little single website called the Theremin Homepage. And it ran out of my student account, and it started getting discovered. I'm not even sure how people found it. I think eventually I listed it in Yahoo back when Yahoo was run out of a student account at Stanford. People started sending me schematics. The fax machine in the grad student lab I worked in would suddenly just start spitting out their own schematics randomly at some points. So I would scan those in and put those on the website. And then the school invited Bob Moog, actually, to come and do a presentation, talk about the theremin and show the documentary. And I got to talk with him a little bit. And he also invited me out to his workshop in Asheville and gave me some theremin schematics to share as well. And it's really just kind of grown over the years from that. It's been a long obsession.

Rick Reid 21:42  

Now, weren't you involved in some sort of robot theremin project?

Jason Barile 21:47  

Yes. When I was in graduate school, I did an electrical engineering degree and worked in a robotics lab. And the robots we were building were intended to help people with disabilities to feed themselves. And so we had video cameras. And we had these to look at a person and try to find their face and put a spoonful of soup in their mouth. But because robots can be, you know, scary and strong, we were using these special robots that had rubber actuators that kind of worked like muscles in pairs. Turned out they were really, really hard to control because they would oscillate back and forth as the rubber bounced. And it wasn't me but one of my co-workers in the grad student lab had the great idea to make it play the theremin because he knew I was obsessed with them. But we realized that it kind of looked like the robot was trying to play vibrato, and it was wiggling back and forth. And so we wrote a little bit of software and connected it to a MIDI keyboard. So you can play a note and then the theremin would play the right note. And then we also made it able to listen to a sound and mimic that sound. So you could sing into a microphone and it would play that same note, which was really fun. I wish we still had it.

Rick Reid 22:44  

Being in charge of that website, which I would say is probably the most visited theremin website in the English language, which is my hunch, how has it affected you as a musician and creative person?

Jason Barile 22:56 

For me, it's really opened a lot of doors. I've gotten to meet so many incredibly cool and interesting people from all over the world. People that you know, I probably never would have had a chance to interact with before and everybody brings something different to the theremin conversation even for such an elegantly simple instrument. There's still so many unique ways of playing it and types of music you can make with it that everybody has been really fascinating to learn from. So it's been a great opportunity.

Rick Reid 23:23  

So over those years, do you think the instrument has gotten out of its sort of novelty reputation to be a more accepted instrument in the general music community?

Jason Barile 23:34  

it is certainly more accepted than when I first kind of learned about it. I think it does still have a novelty appeal to a lot of people. I think a lot of people just like to kind of wave their hands and add some echo and effects and you know, make some noise with it. And it's a fun instrument to watch somebody play. I think that's a very valid use of the theremin for entertainment. But I think what's been truly amazing is to see some really incredible performers start to grow and find their own way of playing the theremin and find their niche within the various musical genres out there. People like Thorwald Jørgensen or Gregoire Blanc have started to do things with the theremin that we thought maybe only Clara Rockmore could do. And so it's been great.

Rick Reid 24:14  

Right now we're having this sort of unofficial 100th anniversary of the theremin. And are we going to see more events?

Jason Barile 24:21  

Yes, we are actually in the works of creating a common section on the site where people could list events. We'll have a common hashtag, I think everybody will be using #theremin100 to try to spread the word. There will be events all over the world. We'll start to see more and more announced in probably later this year. There's a little bit of uncertainty about when the theremin was actually invented. The book by Dr. Albert Glinski says that it was in spring of 1920. And there's been some additional research that suggests maybe the inspiration or the original project happened a few months before that in late 1919. So we're really treating the next year-and-a-half, two-year period as the 100th anniversary, which is great because that just means more theremin events for everybody.

Rick Reid 25:07  

It's kind of like how we celebrate Leon Theremin's birthday twice.. every year. 

Jason Barile 25:10

Exactly. Exactly.

Rick Reid 25:12

Remind people of how they can find your website. 

Jason Barile 25:15

Just go to you can read all of the content, read the forums without signing in, but you're welcome to create a free account as well if you want to participate in the global theremin conversation.

Rick Reid 25:27  

Great. Thank you. Let's finish this month's podcast with music from an artist I got to meet and hear performed during my trip to Durham from Nashville Tennessee This is Shueh-Li Ong with a track called "My Summertime Dreams."

Rick Reid 29:06  

I want to express my thanks to all of the musicians who provided music for this episode. You can find out more about them by following the links at And be sure to subscribe to Theremin 30 wherever you get your podcasts. In the June episode, I'll be featuring the music of Thorwald Jørgensen and Eric Ross. And I'm planning to have Eric on the show to talk about his 1991 meeting with Professor Theremin. So that's a show you won't want to miss. And finally, if you have a recording of your own original theremin music that you would like me to play on the show, please send it in. I'd like to feature as many thereminists from around the world as I possibly can. You can find all the details on the website. I'm your host, Rick Reid, thank you for tuning in.

David Brower 29:50

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