May 2020 - Andrew Baron and Mike Buffington

Mike and Andrew carefully removing the internal works
of  Clara Rockmore’s first theremin, a gift from Professor
Theremin, at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, AZ.
The May 2020 episode of the Theremin 30 podcast features music from Italy, Germany, and the USA. Rick Reid's interview guests are RCA theremin restoration experts Andrew Baron and Mike Buffington. 


"Into My Veins" - Tears of Sirens (Sannicandro di Bari, Italy)
"Kirkyard Greyfriars" - Bloody Red Roses (Dortmund, Germany)
"Halocline" - Duet for Theremin and Lap Steel (Atlanta, GA, USA)
"Hooray for Dane" - The Lothars (Somerville, MA, USA)

*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.


"Opera Glasses" - Phlogiston Theory (Denver, CO, USA) and Ron Allen (Seattle, WA, USA)
"Time Shadows" - Phlogiston Theory (Denver, CO, USA)
"No Static at All" - Phlogiston Theory (Denver, CO, USA)


Andrew Baron and Mike Buffington are the RCA theremin experts at They repair and restore antique vacuum tube theremins and maintain the official RCA Theremin Registry.


Visit the Theremin 30 Calendar of Theremin Events for links and details of events mentioned in this episode.


Giving Kitchen
Atlanta Musicians' Emergency Relief Fund


Theremin 30 Playlist



Copyright 2020 Rick Reid



Please note: This is a machine-generated transcript that has not been manually edited. There will be numerous errors. Check back soon for a corrected version.

David Brower  0:02  
This is Theremin 30, 30 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  0:16  
Hello and welcome to possibly the only regularly scheduled podcast devoted to the art and technology of the Theremin. This month we've gotten plenty of both with kind of an unintentional theme of duos three of this month for music tracks are from duos and my interview guests are a duo of RCA Theremin restoration experts Andrew Barron and Mike Buffington of RCA let's get right into the music with the Italian duo tears of silence from their current album flow. Here is a beautiful track called into my veins.

Rick Reid  7:52  
We've finished that set with kirkyard Greyfriars track named after a 16th century Scottish graveyard. It's the current single from bloody red roses, the new music project from the German duo of Gilda rosani and Hans vanning. Be sure to check out the fascinating and beautiful music video for kirkyard Greyfriars on the Theremin 30 playlist on YouTube. And we started that set with into my veins by tears of sirens, the Italian duo of Juliet revolvy and Fabio prepared See, you can find out about these performers and all the musicians that appear on the podcasts by clicking on their names in the show notes at Theremin Let's take a look now at the calendar of Theremin events. May 23 marks what would have been Bob mugs at sixth birthday. To help celebrate the day there are minister Randy george will be participating in momentum in place, a live streaming event hosted by the Bob Moog Foundation. A lot of other concerts and events of course have been canceled or postponed due to the pandemic but some have moved to an online streaming format. So check the calendar occasionally for the latest updates. There are links on our website calendar dot Theremin three coming up after the break I've got some brand new music from duet for Theremin in lap steel and it's for a good cause. I'll explain when we get back.

Rick Reid  9:25  
Atlanta Georgia based experimental musicians do wet for Theremin and lap steel have a new album out this month and they are donating all proceeds from digital downloads to a couple of local charities giving kitchen and Atlanta musicians Emergency Relief Fund. There are links to both organizations and this month show notes. Let's listen to the title track hallak line

Rick Reid  15:19  
That was hella Klein, a new recording from duet for Theremin and lap steel featuring Scott berlind on the former and Frank scholtes on the ladder. Coming up, I'll be visiting with RCA Theremin restoration experts Andrew Barron and Mike bobbington. Once I've got music from the only non duo on this particular episode, the low thirds so stay tuned.

Rick Reid  15:48  
My special interview guests this month are the experts behind the RCA website. Andrew Barron and Mike Buffington. Andrew and Mike have been restoring and repairing vintage Theremin since the 1990s. They also manage a list of the remaining RCA Theremin is known to exist around the world. Andrew and Mike Welcome to Theremin 30 it's great to have you on the show. So Andrew, you're in New Mexico, correct

Andrew Barron  16:13  
Santa Fe the state capitol up in the north part of the state.

Rick Reid  16:16  
And Mike you're in New York City.

Mike Buffington  16:18  
Yeah, I'm in Greenpoint, Brooklyn,

Rick Reid  16:20  
how did the two of you get together to create the RCA Theremin registry?

Mike Buffington  16:24  
Andy and I met because I was working on a replica Theremin and I posted my results and progress and updates to what was then the live net email server where people would chat about them and and I had said that I had created a replica RCA Theremin I didn't get any replies. I was a little bit surprised because I figured that would be a interesting thing that people would be excited about. And then it just must have been overlooked by everybody. And I wrote again and then people responded and one of those responses was Andy and he basically said, hey, let's talk. This is something that I've been wanting to do for years. The project for me was a very beginner project. It was my first experience and electronics in general but of course first experience in vacuum tube based and vintage electronics. So Andy and I got together over the phone a bunch of times and he helped me with how to do live electrical tests without electrocuting myself and things like that. He's basically just sort of looked and saw the server's notes and said, well, a wire goes from here to there as well how to wire from here to there. And miraculously, when I turned on the instrument, it did make noise, but it wasn't perfect. He

Andrew Barron  17:31  
got it to respond to hand gestures, it actually was a basically functional instrument. The octave pitch range was needing some improvement, it was too quiet. One pair of wires were transposed. And there's nothing in the service notes that would lead you to know that with a simple correction there all of a sudden he had adequate volume and from there the instrument could be refined to perform as a real RCA would so it was quite a accomplishment for someone without prior electronic experience.

Mike Buffington  18:03  
I was living in Tucson Arizona as I'm going to university and Andy was in Santa Fe. So we got together and started just sharing our knowledge and passion for

Andrew Barron  18:14  
the Theremin. And out of that the idea for our Theremin website to support owners and enthusiasts of RCA Thurman's in the first generation Thurman's made by lev Leon Theremin the inventor himself came about and then the registry came a little bit after that,

Mike Buffington  18:31  
in some ways, the registry has been around longer than RC, Theremin calm. We have sort of adopted it from Theremin, where it was being run by Jason Burrell. We asked him if he would be okay with us moving sort of the official registry to our site,

Rick Reid  18:46  
 there were only what six or 700 made Originally

Unknown Speaker  18:51  
there were 500 made originally,

Rick Reid  18:53  
and you've been able to track down a pretty large percentage of them.

Mike Buffington   18:56  
Well, when we adopted the registry from Theremin world, I think it was about 40 or 70.

Andrew Barron  19:01  
It was 40. So that was only 8% of the total production that had accumulated a total of 40 submissions from owners of RCA Thurman's to add them to the Thurman registry.

Mike Buffington   19:11  
And while Andy and I were collaborating from Park 3006 or seven to 2010, he and I were independently keeping track of any theorem inventions we had seen for RCA is on on eBay on posts online, just through the grapevine. When we launched our website, I think we had around 70. So we added ourselves about 30 instruments, give or take now it's between 26 and 27% that we're showing on our website as survivors. Yeah, we're at 130 Thurman's Now,

Rick Reid  19:43  
one of the cool things I like about your registry is we get an address attached to each instrument. For example, the paddock Museum in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. I've gone to Minnesota just to play that instrument. Yeah. It's great to Be able to have that resource for people that want to seek out those historic instruments.

Mike Buffington   20:05  
Yeah, that was a fun addition. I think we advanced the website. But we were talking and any sort of just took a screenshot of a map and said, wouldn't it be great if we could see where all that exists? So I dug deep and learned how to use Google Maps. And on our registry, we have a little icon for blue RCA Theremin that would be in a museum, and then Black icons for privately owned theremins. And so we sort of generalize the privately owned so it can't just go exactly the van address. But for the museum ones, we do have it almost to the location in the building, if we can, we have a little disclaimer saying don't just go there and assume that it'll be on view. But we try to keep that as up to date as possible. I'm glad it's being used for that reason.

Rick Reid  20:46  
One of my trips in the last couple of years was to the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix. And you both I think had a hand in a couple of the Theremin is on display there.

Andrew Barron  20:56  
Yeah, both of the RCA Thurman's there, we've been involved in both of those instruments in different ways.

Rick Reid  21:02  
One is there a rock Moore's instrument, and I don't remember where the other one came from.

Mike Buffington   21:06  
I remember seeing the other one before online, I think we knew about someone wanting to sell it, then the men purchased it,

Andrew Barron  21:13  
they had contacted me to inquire about whether they should get that instrument, they sent photos of it. And I made an observation of a modification that had been made for museums, it's certainly important for them if an object they're exhibiting has been changed in some way so that they can use that as an educational element in the presentation. And so I brought that to their attention and there were two or three emails and a summary of notes that I made from the photos they sent and then that ultimately led to their acquiring that one,

Rick Reid  21:44  
the RCA Theremin has such a Mystique and a popularity still even though it was a commercial flop at the time it came out

Mike Buffington  21:53  
I think the RCA Theremin specifically so highly sought after is because it is a design straight off the blueprints of Leon Theremin he designed the instrument. So it has all those characteristics of his early instruments and some of the characteristics in terms of voice of the instruments that we know of and think of when we think of a Theremin we think of Clara rock Moore's sound and the sound generating components are the same in the RSA theorem and even if it performs differently or behaves differently.

Andrew Barron  22:25  
Clara's instrument as you can imagine, was hot rotted to the nth degree by the collaboration of Theremin working with Clara and most of that, if not all of that actually came after the RCA Theremin was manufactured. But as Mike said the RCA Theremin it actually holds the distinction as being the only manufactured Theremin in history to have been designed by Theremin himself. Beyond that, I think a lot of people who became aware of the lore of the Theremin through Steven Martin's film Theremin and electronic Odyssey imprinted on the look of the RCA Theremin in that scene of the instrument slowly rotating and dramatically lit. That's certainly what I think captured me and probably Mike as well there there's something you want to just get your hands on that. And some 1000s of people around the world who've seen the film would have had this sort of visceral experience. That's visual as well as we learn more about the sonic qualities of various Theremin find that's really the holy grail of the Theremin world. Now is there any danger in working on these instruments? Any vintage electronics that uses vacuum tubes, by necessity has a high voltage power supply. So you do have lethal operating voltages, both the line voltage that comes into it, and that gets stepped up through a winding in a transformer to hundreds of volts or more. And of course, we have the element of a 91 year old electronics that it's going through and with RCA Thurman's, our hope is that they have remained relatively untouched, which means that the delicate fabric insulated original wiring is still intact and safe. But many of these instruments have been handled oftentimes by people who are not well versed with antique electronics and how delicate things can be. And a lot of damage can occur. You know, even if their interest is there and their passion is there and they're sincere about what they do. They may handle things wrong, that can introduce hazards. This was one of the main reasons why we began to fast track the introduction of our website we were aware of historically important custom built Theremin that had a connection with Thurman's laboratory in New York that was not restored to museum standard. And so we decided that it was time to get more meaningful information out there for people who might be involved in these instruments.

Mike Buffington   24:50  
We do have some safety hazards that we mentioned in bold red text. We also have a section on our site about how to set up the Theremin how to operate it For a safe and playable use, how do people get ahold of you if they need some help with their Theremin, they can go to RCA that's RCA th er e m i And our email address is experts at RCA Also anyone listening who has maybe an RCA Theremin that they haven't put on the registry, we'd love to hear about it. We'd love to hear about its history, serial numbers, photographs,

Rick Reid  25:28  
etc. Both of you thank you so much for the work you've done to promote and preserve these beautiful and historic instruments.

Andrew Barron  25:35  
Thank you for your interest.

Rick Reid  25:37  
Now let's wrap up this episode with the Massachusetts band that has not one but four therapists from their year 2000 album release oscillate my metallic sonatas here are the lone stars with a track called Hooray for Dane.

Rick Reid  26:49  
Amen. We'd made it through another 30 minutes and another month of all things Theremin. I want to thank tears of sirens bloody red roses duet for Theremin and lap steel and the low DARS for allowing me to play their music. Also my thanks to interview guests Andrew Barron and Mike Buffington from RCA coming up in the June episode of Theremin 30 I'll have new music from Finland and my interview guests will be first gowans creator of the open Theremin Uno. Until then, I'm your host Rick Reid. Stay safe everybody.

David Brower  29:51  
You've been listening to the Theremin 30 podcast visit Theremin 30 on the web at Theremin three