June 2019 - Eric Ross

The June 2019 episode of the Theremin 30 podcast features music from the USA, Canada, and the Netherlands. Rick Reid's interview guest is avant-garde composer and performer Eric Ross.


*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  00:18
Hi there. Welcome to the June 2019 edition of Theremin 30, the monthly podcast for all things theremin. I've got some really diverse and fun music queued up for you this month. And, as always, all of the tracks are featured here with the permission of the recording artists. I will also tell you about some theremin-related concerts and events to check out, and I've got an interview with composer and multi-instrumentalist Eric Ross. Let's get right into the music. in about three minutes you'll hear the theremin in a folk music setting from the Manitoba, Canada, duo Leaf Rapids. but first here's a Brazilian influence track from right here in Denver, Colorado. And I have no idea what the lyrics are about. These are the Inactivists from their Dreaded Concept Album album and a song called "The Esperanto Samba."

Rick Reid  07:29
We started that set with the Inactivists featuring Victoria Lundy on theremin and Scott Livingston on lead Esperanto vocals. After that, I played a song called "Dear Sister" by Leaf Rapids from their current album Citizen Alien. Be sure to check out the official music video on YouTube. There's a link to it on the website. Leaf Rapids are a duo from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Keri Latimer sings lead vocals and plays theremin and acoustic guitar. Her husband Devin Latimer plays bass. As of June 1st, they are in the middle of a quick European tour with a full slate of concerts around Germany and the Netherlands through June 8th. They will also be playing several festivals around Canada over the next few months. You can check out their performance schedule at LeafRapids.org or on the Theremin 30 website. And that's a good segue into the calendar of theremin events. June 14th through the 17th you can catch Pepperland in Costa Mesa, California. The Beatles-themed modern dance performance features Rob Schwimmer on theremin. Rob will also be playing theremin, piano, and Haken continuum in Asheville, North Carolina, on June 5th. Dorit Chrysler will be providing live accompaniment to an experimental film series called Three Episodes of Life this month in Vienna, Austria. Sarah Rice will bring her Music of the Night show to London, England, on June 16th. And finally, Thorwald Jørgenson has two performances in Switzerland on June 21st and 22nd. Let's hear some music from Thorwald right now. Of course, he's best known for performing traditional classical music, but he's a composer, too. Here is his original ambient composition called Distant Shores for Theremin, Loop Station, and Voice, recorded live at the Royal Conservatory in the Hague.

Rick Reid  16:28
There's more music to come on the Theremin 30 podcast, and I'll visit with avant-garde recording artist Eric Ross. So stay tuned.

Rick Reid  16:54
My special guest this month is Eric Ross, an avant-garde composer and multi-instrumentalist based in Binghamton, New York. I talked with him via cell phone about some of his unique and fascinating experiences involving the theremin. Eric Ross, thank you so much for being on Theremin 30.

Eric Ross  17:10
Thanks. It's nice to be here.

Rick Reid  17:11
To get us started. Tell us how you got involved in the theremin. What was your introduction to the instrument and what did you like about it that attracted you?

Eric Ross  17:18
I got involved in it, I was working with my wife in a place called Experimental Television Center, which was an early public access studio. And not only did they have cameras, but they also had video synthesizers and processing modules. And I was looking through a catalog there one day and I saw an advertisement for a theremin. Well, I said, "this would be fun." So, I had some engineers put it together for me. And it was pretty remarkable. But I quickly realized that it was a very difficult instrument to play. Because there's no fretboard. There's no keyboard. But after staying with it for a few years, in 1982, I was able to use it on my first solo record album in New York City. A jazz label called Doria Records, an album called Songs for Synthesized Soprano. And that album really broke me out in terms of sales and reviews and airplay. And I know a lot of other musicians had picked up on it. Miles Davis, Pierre Boulez, John Cage, they all had that album. I think part of the reason for its success was the theremin. And I've used it in all of my major compositions since then.

Rick Reid  18:18
You are in upstate New York. Did you get a chance to meet or work with Bob Moog when he had his factory in Trumansburg?

Eric Ross  18:25
Well, actually, I met Bob in the early 90s. We did some workshops and performances together up at Cornell University. And then I met him later on and spent quite a bit of time with him in Portland, Maine, when there was the first international theremin festival up there. Lydia Kavina and I were the two master teachers and Bob was the technical consultant on that. And we got to meet and hang out for quite a bit of time. He was actually testing the Ethervox theremins, and with the MIDI and I got to play that. He was a great guy, great inventor, and a really nice person. And he really liked what I was doing with the theremin. He said what I was doing was very unique with the instrument. And he hoped that I would keep on with it. I also, in the early days, got to meet Clara Rockmore who was the great virtuosa of theremin. After I released the Soprano album, somebody said to me, "why don't you go see that old lady up on 57th Street?" And I said, "who's that?" And he told me "Clara Rockmore." And so I called her up and she invited me over for tea, and we got to meet several times. And a couple times she played for me. She was still an absolutely amazing player. And she inspired me to write a concerto for two theremins. My original idea was to have her and I play the two parts, and we eventually did that piece at Lincoln Center with an orchestra there. But she didn't play. I had another fella named Youssef Yancy who was a jazz thereminist, one of the few guys that I knew at that time. He had played with Sun Ra, and Ornette, and Muhal Abrahams, and those guys. So we did that concert for two theremins at Lincoln Center. She was a real inspiration to me, too. And later on in '91, I got a call from Steven Martin who produced a movie called The Electronic Odyssey of Leon Theremin, and he called me up one afternoon. He said, "Eric," he said "if you want to meet Theremin," he said, "I've got him in a room in the Mayfair hotel here in New York City, come on down." I said "Okay," I said, "when?" He said, "right now." I said, "I'm on my way." He said, "and bring your theremin." So I did. I brought the theremin down and I plugged it in and set it up, and Professor Theremin came in and I played for a little while. And then I plugged it through my wah-wah pedal, and he had never heard that before. So he wanted to try that himself, which he did to good effect. And then later, he told me he had plans to build a polyphonic theremin. But he didn't actually do it. Because when he went back to Russia, shortly thereafter, he passed away. In fact, he never saw the movie, The Electronic Odyssey either.

Rick Reid  20:37
I was at the premiere at Sundance.

Eric Ross  20:39
They filmed about 15 minutes of Theremin and I playing and talking, but it didn't make it into the movie. Steve told me it wasn't because the clips weren't any good or anything. He was just, he was trying to tell the story. And he didn't have time. But I did get a couple of credits at the end for being a production assistant, and consultation and that. But just the fact that you know, I got to meet him and Clara Rockmore and Bob Moog. Those three people I think primarily influenced me with the theremin and encouraged me to continue on using it.

Rick Reid  21:08
Your musical interests cover a pretty wide range of styles. How would you describe your theremin music style?

Eric Ross  21:14
Well, I would just call it new music, or perhaps avant-garde. And that's my main interest with it. The different idioms, I found the theremin fit into a lot of different contexts in that way.

Rick Reid  21:24
You have some performances coming up this summer. What can audiences expect?

Eric Ross  21:28
I have a couple of solo performances coming up, and then I'm going to do some with my avant-garde trio. We will be doing new works. Basically, the works that I've been doing these days are-- include video by my wife, Mary Ross. And she was a video artist and photographer. We made these pieces together, and I scored the video for theremin and other works so that we could perform live with them. So it's kind of a multimedia session. And other times, oftentimes, I bring in a dancer. I've been working with dancers also since the '80s. and incorporate them into the score. So it's like a whole multimedia sort of performance.

Rick Reid  22:01
Sounds great. I'd like to catch a show sometime.

Eric Ross  22:04
I hope you do. Yes.

Rick Reid  22:05
I feel like I've known you for a long time through the internet. It's great to finally get a chance to visit with you.

Eric Ross  22:11
Rick, I think it's a good thing that you're doing to continue helping to keep the theremin alive and in people's consciousness.

Rick Reid  22:15
Thanks so much for taking the time.

Eric Ross  22:17
Thanks, Rick. Best wishes.

Rick Reid  22:19
Let's finish this month's podcast with music from Eric Ross from his 2014 live album Music from the Future for Theremin and Ensemble. This track is called "East EQ Zone."

Rick Reid  29:03
I'm so grateful to Eric Ross and the other artists who provided music for this episode. You can find out more about each of them by following the links at Theremin30.com. Please show them your support by buying their music and attending their performances. Also, be sure to subscribe to Theremin 30 wherever you get your podcasts. In the July episode, I'll be featuring the music of Dorit Chrysler and Matteo Ciminari. I'm also planning an interview with Michelle Moog-Koussa about the new Moogseum in Asheville, North Carolina, with a preview of the grand opening event scheduled for Leon Theremin's birthday. Finally, I want to remind you that if you have a recording of your own original theremin music, please do send it in. I'd like to spotlight as many artists and genres as I possibly can. I'm your host, Rick Reid, thank you for tuning in.

David Brower  29:51
You've been listening to the Theremin 30 podcast. Visit Theremin 30 on the web at Theremin30.com.