February 2022 - Eric Wallin


In the February 2022 episode of the Theremin 30 podcast, host Rick Reid plays music from Australia, the USA, England, and Germany. Rick's interview guests is Eric Wallin, designer of the D-Lev digital theremin.

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Copyright 2022 Rick Reid 



Please note, this transcript was generated with text-to-speech AI.  It may contain several spelling and punctuation errors and other inaccuracies until we have time to make manual corrections.

David Brower  0:04  
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  0:18  
Hey, welcome to the Theremin 30 podcast for the month of February 2022. I wasn't able to get an episode together in January because of time commitments to other projects, but I'm hoping to get back into a rhythm for the rest of this year and put out an episode every month. You can help me by letting me know about new theorem and music I can play on the show and about their main events. I can list on the theremin 30 calendar. Also, let me know people you'd like me to interview. You can write to me through the website, Facebook or Twitter. In this episode, I have new music to share with you from Myles Brown, Marla Goodman, Kevin Senate and for the first time in this series, Carolina Ike. And my special guest is Eric Wallen, designer of the D lab digital Theremin it's an instrument that takes a whole new approach to the technology of space controlled music. Let's get the music started right now with something you don't often hear on this podcast a song with vocals from Australian singer Grace Cummings off her new album storm queen here is a track called fly a kite featuring thereminist Myles brown.

We started the show with fly a kite by Grace Cummings featuring Myles brown on theremin it's from Grace's new storm Queen album. After that we heard an arrangement of the traditional American folk song Shannon Doha, performed by Montana USA-based multi-instrumentalist Marla Goodman. on that track, Marla played the Moga, Clara Vox Theremin, a rocky mountain dulcimer and a ukulele She says she was inspired to record the song by a boy named Charlie who uses his Instagram account. To raise awareness about type one diabetes. Marla posted a video performance to YouTube and you can find it on the Theremin 30 YouTube playlist. After the break, I'll take a look at upcoming events on the Theremin 30 calendar and to play new music from Kevin Senate. And later in the show. I'll visit with V lab designer Eric Wallen, so stay tuned

we take some time out of every podcast episode to look at the Theremin 30 calendar there amid events on February 26 Charlie Hobbs and Coralie Ehinger will present a combined workshop in concert in Fribourg, Switzerland. Also on the 26th Yoko Ohnishi hosts her monthly RCA Theremin evening on YouTube. Lydia Cavanagh continues her online workshops on most Sundays, February 28 marks the 94th anniversary of the granting of the US patent for the Theremin to Professor Leon Theremin. And March 9 is the 111th anniversary of Clara Rockmore his birth. For details about these events and more, check out the interactive calendar on Theremin thirty.com. And if you have an event you'd like me to put on the calendar, send me all the details through the website, Twitter or Facebook. Liverpool, England-based recording artist Kevin Senate has a new album out called the king and queen of the graveyard. Kevin describes it as an imagined ballet documenting 24 hours in the life of a local cemetery. Here's a track from the album called skeletons dancing on our graves

That was skeletons dancing on our graves by Kevin Senate. You can find Kevin's new album The king and queen of the graveyard on Spotify, Amazon music and all the other usual places. Click on his name and this month show notes for a link to more details on his website. I've got new music from Carolina Eyck coming up later. And right after this break, I'll visit with electronics engineer and instrument designer Eric Wallen about his new D-Lev digital Theremin. So stick around.

A few of my friends around the world have been lucky enough to be among the first musicians to get the new D-Lev digital Theremin. It's an instrument that takes a technological approach to their music much different than any other instrument I've seen. A few weeks ago, I visited with Eric Wallen, designer of the D live from his home in New Jersey. Thank you for being on the Theremin 30 podcast.

Eric Wallin  17:06  
Thank you for having me on.

Rick Reid  17:07  
The reason I got you on the show is I wanted to hear about your instrument called the D lab. Some of my friends have some of your instruments.

Eric Wallin  17:18  
Yes, I a 10 kit so far and launched him into space. D lab is entirely based on FPGA technology. an FPGA is a field-programmable gate array.

Rick Reid  17:31  
Field-Programmable Gate Array.

Eric Wallin  17:34  
Yes. What it is is like a sea of logic with a fabric of switches that are interconnected using a high level description language.

Rick Reid  17:42  
I think what you said, because I'm not an electronic engineer, is it's a computer that replaces traditional electronics.

Eric Wallin  17:49  
It's generic logic replaces specific logic. Generally, you program this generic logic to do specific things. 

Rick Reid  17:57  
How did you get started on the project? And what progress have you made so far?

Eric Wallin  18:01  
I worked in telecom for 12 years, but I've always wanted to design and work in the electronic music field. And when I left my job, I wanted to develop a sound synthesizer. And I wanted to work on a custom processor. And I thought, well, you know, let me work on a theorem. And how hard could that be? It seems like all Theremin designers go down the same path. You know, it seems easy. But then there's a lot of nuance to the project started with the design of the digital oscillators that that set up the pitch and volume fields. And it uses phase-lock techniques to maintain the resonance and high voltage on the antennas. And then after that, I moved on to the synthesizer portion of the project. focus mainly on human vocals, but it turns out the same topology into things like strings, clarinets, whistles, saws, bells, airplanes, things like that. It's kind of fun. But human vocals are really where

Rick Reid  19:08  
you say you have 10 instruments built. What's the response been so far for the people have those instruments, they're

Eric Wallin  19:13  
not in the field at the moment, and the response has been positive. I think many are still grappling with the ergonomics and mechanics of making a permanent enclosure for it.

Rick Reid  19:25  
What did these things look like? And I know the antennas are different than traditional Theremin when it comes

Eric Wallin  19:31  
mounted on a piece of corrugated plastic, the control panel, the tuner, and there are two boxes, one for the pitch side and one for the volume side. And inside the box is a coil. And so what's in the kit is two temporary Layton antennas, and I try to push plates because they make a lot of sense for digital Theremin. There really hasn't been much pushback I expect to do much more. Most people seem pretty fine with it.

Rick Reid  19:56  
With the pitch antenna does the player move their hand up and down?

Eric Wallin  20:00  
The beauty of the kit is you can set it up however you want, it gets me out of building a case, it makes shipping much lighter. And then lets the owners make their own dream sort of instrument.

Rick Reid  20:12  
I've seen some really beautiful cabinets so far.

Eric Wallin  20:15  
One is in a Bolla wine box. Another person I think is using one box to work out pretty well. You can leave it in the cardboard box forever and still play it.

Rick Reid  20:26  
What makes it different than traditional Theremin? If there is such a thing as a traditional theremin, because I've changed so much over the years.

Eric Wallin  20:33  
the D-Lev is a real therapy in the sense that the player interacts with to capacity fields. But the sound generation is the DSP, a digital signal processing music synthesizer. And that's not anything new. I mean, the open Theremin does that the ether box from a long time ago that Bob Moke designed it down the Theremini does that the Clara box does that in modern mode. But when you decouple the audio generation from the fields, you know, when you don't heterodyne like most analog terms do, you can linearize the field mathematically, you can size it, you can locate it, you have a lot of control over the shape and location of the field. And I think that's probably the biggest accomplishment in the DLF. But I've also got very responsive pitch-and-volume LED tuner display of a very natural sounding pitch correction. It has an organic modal synthesis engine and a sophisticated pitch preview.

Rick Reid  21:29  
Can you create your own patches and save them as presets?

Eric Wallin  21:33  
Yes, you can. There are100 slots that you can save to and then there's 99 slots that are sort of factory slots that are read-only but you can put whatever you want in those slots to with the editor. Now did

Rick Reid  21:43  
you come up with all of those presets yourself? Or do you have other musicians helping you with that?

Eric Wallin  21:47  
A came up with the vast majority of them myself. I had one other personal working with me. Roger has worked with me on the project extensively for several years and he came up with a beautiful female Patsy Cline kind of voice. I use it all the time. I've lowered the formants in terms of gender like tenor and it's also very expressive.

Rick Reid  22:16  
You've been working on this years and years, haven't you? Because I think you started talking about it on the Theremin world bulletin board quite a while ago. Yeah, like about 10 years ago, I must be exciting to be this close to finished, or are you finished?

Eric Wallin  22:30  
It's hard to say. I mean, yes, it's in a state that it can be distributed. But it could be cost reduced. And it could have things like reverb added to it that I'd like to do. And maybe now with the supply interruptions, oh, I'll have more time to do further engineering work on

Rick Reid  22:47  
it. I've never invented anything to be this far along with such a cool instrument. I mean, is it really for a thrill or

Eric Wallin  22:56  
it's interesting to have a really big project because when you maybe hit a dead end, doing one thing, you can do something entirely different. You can work on the manual or you can work on some other aspect of the design. There's just always something to do. And then when you release it, there's the social aspects of releasing it had been very, very interesting, very rewarding. Everybody that's contacted me everybody that's bottling has been uniformly very kind, very earnest. So it's been wonderful getting to know people through the project.

Rick Reid  23:28  
So is your plan to have these commercially available for sale? You know,

Eric Wallin  23:32  
I'm kind of playing it by ear right now. Right now, it's also kind of difficult to obtain arts, I'm trying to scrounge enough FPGA boards together to make another round of kits. And I'll be able to do that. But with COVID supply chains have been very disrupted.

Rick Reid  23:48  
If somebody wants to purchase an instrument when you can make some more, how do they find out about it? And where can they get more information?

Eric Wallin  23:54  
Well, they can read about the DLev on the D-Lev website, D-Lev.com. They can see pictures of units that are out in the wild. They can listen to various voice presets that I've played mostly. And they can download the editor and play around with it. They can read the manual.

Rick Reid  24:11  
There's a Facebook group as well, right? 

Eric Wallin  24:13  
Yes, there's a Facebook group: "D-Lev theremin groupies."

Rick Reid  24:15  
I really appreciate you taking the time to show me your instruments and tell our listeners more about it.

Eric Wallin  24:21  
Thank you so much for having me.

Rick Reid  24:42  
To learn more about Eric Wallin's D-Lev theremin, follow the link in this month show notes at Theremin30.com. 

Now let's finish the show with new music from Carolina Eyck. Her new album is called Thetis 2086 and it's set for release on April 15. You can preorder it now on Amazon. Here is the first single "Crystal Glacier."

That was "Crystal Glacier" by Carolina Eyck. You can see the music video for that song on the Theremin 30 playlist. And there's the music so I should take this moment to send out a big thank you to Grace Cummings and Myles Brown, Marla Goodman, Kevin Sinnott and Carolina Eyck for allowing me to play their wonderful music. I'm also grateful to Eric Wallin for visiting with me about the D-Lev digital Theremin. And to the listeners who support the show with small monthly donations. I also want to thank you for listening. Please tell your friends to listen. Also be sure to check out any of the episodes you may have missed. Until next time, this is Rick Reid. I'll see you again soon somewhere in the ether.

David Brower  29:47  
You've been listening to the Theremin 30 podcast visit Theremin 30 on the web at Theremin30.com.