March 2022 - Aleks Schürmer and Grégoire Blanc


The March 2022 episode of Theremin 30 features performances by women thereminists from the Netherlands, the USA, Japan, and England. Rick Reid's interview guests are Aleks Schürmer and Grégoire Blanc. They have a new chamber music album called À ses derniers pas, entrant dans la boue. 

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*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 2022 Rick Reid 



Please note: This is an automatically generated transcription. There will be some errors.

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  0:19  
Hello there. Welcome to the final episode of year three of the Theremin 30 podcast. This is the 33rd episode in the series and if you're new to the show, I encourage you to start back at the beginning and listen to my interviews with some of the most influential people in the Theremin community and some really great music from around the world. March is Women's History Month. International Women's Day was March 8 and Clara Rockmore His birthday was March 9. So in this episode, I've gotten Music featuring four outstanding women who played Theremin Miss Therie, Victoria Lundy, Yoko Onishi, and Lydia Kavina. My special guests this month are Alex Shermer and Gregoire blanc will be chatting about their new contemporary classical album release with the title I will never be able to pronounce. Let's jump right into the music now with a twofer of music inspired by science fiction and horror. First up it's a brand new track from probe nation featuring Miss Therie, then Victoria Lundy serenade some creatures of the night let you know more about both recordings on the other side. 

We started the show with invasion the title track of the new sci fi inspired EP from probe nation. The band features Ronnie Wilson from Surrey, England on vocals and most of the instruments plus some terrific Theremin work by Dutch thereminist Miss Therie you may also know her as Ana Magda, de Geus. I've been practicing her last name all day and I still don't think I said it right. After that we heard from Victoria Lundy, who hails from right here in Denver, Colorado, USA. With her tracker called bats come out at night. She recorded it for a streaming gig last Halloween but I didn't want to wait until the next Halloween to share it with you. Be sure to check out the music video for that track on the Theremin 30 YouTube playlist. And for more information about all the artists featured in this episode, click on their names in this month's show notes at Theremin Coming up after the break, I've got the calendar of Theremin events plus a very very old song performed by Yoko Ohnishi. So stay tuned

It's time now for a look at the Theremin 30 calendar of Theremin events on March 23. Dorit Chrysler will perform live at the Fridman Gallery in New York City. On March 26, about Aphrodite has a gig in Dortmund, Germany at the Industrial Museum. On April 1, both tour Wald Jorgensen and Greta Pistaceci will perform at the fundraiser events to support humanitarian aid in Ukraine. On April 9, Karolina Aiko hosts an online masterclass, and on April 16, electric travelers take the stage at gallery zing and Kobe City, Japan for an evening of electro-pop music. For more details about these events and a whole lot more, check out the interactive calendar on Theramin And if you have an event you'd like me to put on the calendar, send me all the details through the website to Twitter or Facebook. I also want to take a moment now to share a couple of recent news items with you. Masami taki Yuichi inventor of the matter Yeoman handheld Theremin has a new book out called Theremin and I search for the shapeless sound. It includes some autobiographical content about his life and career over the last 25 years. Now, I would love to have Masami as a guest on the podcast but I need to find an interpreter who's fluent in both English and Japanese. If you know someone who can help me out, please contact me through the website or social media. I also want to recognize Xiao Xiao Mei interview guest in the August 2021 episode, she and her research colleagues in Paris just took second place in the annual Guthman musical instrument competition with their singing Theremin. Yoko Onishi recently sent me her 2017 CD called all Theramin and I've been listening to it in my car every day lately. This is one of my favorite tracks from the album, a 600-year-old Korean folk song called Arirang which loosely translates to English as my beloved One.

That was Arirang performed by Yoko Ohnishi. She hosts the RCA Theremin evening live stream on YouTube the fourth weekend of each month. Click the link in that Theremin 30 calendar for details. After the break, Alex Shermer and Gregoire blanc will visit with me about their new album, and later in the show play some experimental improvisation featuring Lydia Kavina. So stick around

back in August of 2019, Canadian pianist-composer Alex Shermer, and French thereminist Gregoire blanc premiered a new chamber music work at a concert in Montreal. Those compositions have now been rearranged for a new album. I recently had a chance to speak with the artists about it. Alex and Gregoire. Thank you so much for being on the Theremin 30 podcast.

Aleks Schurmer  16:19  
Hey, thanks for having us. 

Gregoire Blanc  16:20  
Hello, Rick. Thank you.

Rick Reid  16:21  
I invited you to the show because you have a new album out is wonderful, modern classical music. How did you two get together? You're not even on the same continent.

Aleks Schurmer  16:31  
We were for a brief period of time.

Yeah, exactly. It was during my studies. After mechanical engineering. I went to study acoustics and yet final year study program in Montreal, Canada. And that's where I met Alex. I think it was just a random message on Instagram. It told me that okay, so you can hear it could be great to meet and try to collaborate and we decided to work on a concert program to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Theremin at the time. And it led to a great concert with Theremin strings and cello.

Rick Reid  17:10  
There are so few Theremin players or Theremin enthusiasts in the world. And we find each other

Aleks Schurmer  17:16  
other than Gregoire, I had never met another thereminist. In real life. I've got some salmon students, but this was the remains. The only other interaction I've had in real life with another diamond player.

Rick Reid  17:28  
How did you go about preparing for this concert? Was the music written before you met Gregoire?

Aleks Schurmer  17:33  
Some of the music existed more or less in the form that it was heard, maybe for other instruments. You know, there's some pieces that I quite loosely adapted from bassoon, but there wasn't that much that I had to be changed. Now some of the pieces existed, perhaps only more conceptually.

Rick Reid  17:49  
How did you get from the concert to the new album? It's been, what? Two and a half years? 

Aleks Schurmer  17:55  
Yeah, so this probably would have happened a little bit more quickly. But I don't recall something major has happened over the last couple of years that has prevented some of these things, whatever that was, yeah. What was it. So once you've got funding to be able to record this, then it was sort of quite difficult to figure out how to record it we had done on Greg, whereas YouTube channel, a sort of live performance of the entire concert, you know, and that day was the day the world sort of fell apart. So we all got there thinking we weren't totally sure what was going to happen anymore. And Gregor had to be out of the country less than 24 hours later for fear that he would not be able to get back into France.

Rick Reid  18:33  
And you'd be stuck with him for who knows how long? Yeah, that would have been terrible.

Aleks Schurmer  18:38  
We would have made a couple more bumps perhaps. But, but you know, that happened. And then the next part was trying to think, How can we do this? Because the concert was with strings, and we ended up having to record all of this remotely. So I rearranged the string music for two pianos. And I had just played both counterparts,

Rick Reid  18:59  
Gregoire did Alex send you the piano parts, and then you recorded your part of each of these tracks by themselves.

Aleks Schurmer  19:06  
I think it wouldn't have been possible if we didn't meet before. And to practice this music together, that we already played this music and we knew what we wanted to express how we wanted it to go. The first step was at extending the scores, and then some general recordings. And I started recordings. And there were very few occurrences where I wanted for instance, more space for your battle. Some slower tempo sometimes or you know, softer dynamics from the piano or vice versa. And we did some kind of ping pong about adjusting these kind of recordings so that I could fit my playing in.

People make pop albums all the time remotely, but this was a little bit more challenging. This is music that is supposed to feel somewhat alive. I just beat mapped every note so that When we were working remotely, we'd be able to, you know, say, Gregoire comes in a bit sooner, but I think it makes more sense well, then, you know, I can contract the time in my part, so that these parts fit together or vice versa. So it still ended up being a collaborative effort rather than just like Gregoire playing along to like a karaoke track,

I think we tend to be quite happy with the results. It's sounds hopefully, as natural as possible.

The engineer Chris Johns, he's Juno winning engineer and producer, his main thing is recording the Montreal symphony, you know, doing things like that. But he also has had a lot of recent experiences recording a lot of Ondists in Montreal. So I think he already had quite a bit of experience understanding what this would sound like or how we could do this. Now I'm

Rick Reid  20:49  
curious Gregoire. How is it to work with a composer who also plays Theremin? Did that create any tension about how to go about playing your parts?

Gregoire Blanc  20:59  
Actually, it's very interesting because Alex is aware of the latest playable and notes. He took the challenge to put some things that were absolutely not deterministic sometimes. But that's part of the game to try to do what you can and show some limitations of the instrument.

Rick Reid  21:17  
He does not go easy on you. Alex wrote some really complicated parts

Aleks Schurmer  21:20  
for you. The only person to blame for its difficulty is Craig Wright himself. You know, some of the things we don't consider monistic perusing Mr. blouse, YouTube channel, you will find lots of things that you think oh, that seems like something that you could not do. Then the idea became well, how much stuff like this can we try to do this? Herman has always that sad ghost in the background, languorously Singing whole notes tied to other whole notes, I thought there must be a way to get a totally new view on what the sermon could be.

Rick Reid  21:57  
There's 14 tracks altogether, but it's really five different cohesive works

Gregoire Blanc  22:02  
There are like different atmospheres, throughout the album. Generic is like an opening credits to show off a bit, the global taste of the album. Then there is the whole set, you know, which is more Symphonic thing for two pianos and Theremin. Then we have to cowboy songs which are more minimalistic, with just theremin and piano, then we have to ask the best tricks, which once again is more orchestra. Because the strings were really, really important here. And we made the choice to use some Haken continuum to bring some texture and to replace some of the string harmonies. And we conclude with just the theremin and continuum. So that's a completely different mood,

Rick Reid  23:06  
Gregoire. I haven't said the name of the album yet, because I don't pronounce French properly. So could you help us out on what that title of the album is and what it means to you.

Gregoire Blanc  23:17  
Data is actually on your path called Hope by boo. Which means basically to is last steps, entering into some mud. So to say,

Rick Reid  23:30  
Google says something like his last step, stepping into the mud. That's pretty close.

Aleks Schurmer  23:36  
The idea was, this was the Neil Armstrong moon landing, quote. It's just a lot less optimistic that these are the final gasping breaths of humanity before we slink back into the muck that we came from. 

Rick Reid  23:50  

Gregoire Blanc  23:52  
that's the crazy way Alex likes to name things.

Rick Reid  23:56  
So that explains the album cover it looks like molten lava.

Aleks Schurmer  24:00  
Exactly. You know, there's that scene and Fantasia who killed the dinosaurs. That's us.

Rick Reid  24:05  
Well, this album is available on Bandcamp. And you can listen to it for free, which is really cool. Or you can buy the download and support the artists which I encourage our listeners to do and you can also order a CD a limited edition CD. Tell me about that , Gregoire.

Gregoire Blanc  24:20  
Well, you don't really know because I haven't seen the physical products yet.

Aleks Schurmer  24:25  
They have somewhere in transit.

Gregoire Blanc  24:29  

Rick Reid  24:30  

Gregoire Blanc  24:31  
But yeah, well

Rick Reid  24:32  
then Aleks, you tell me.

Gregoire Blanc  24:36  
So it's a global release. It's available everywhere. So on Bandcamp, Spotify, Apple Music and this CD physical release.

Aleks Schurmer  24:45  
If people want to buy it, they should buy it through the Canadian Music Centre website or through my website.

Rick Reid  24:52  
Thank you for being on the show and for sharing your music. I wish you much success with it. Sell a lot of CDs and hopefully, we'll get to see it on stage again soon.

Aleks Schurmer  24:59  
Thanks. Thank you.

Unknown Speaker  25:01  
That's wonderful. And thank you again for this incredible work that you're doing. 

Aleks Schurmer  25:05  

Unknown Speaker  25:05  
really, you can be proud

Rick Reid  25:07  
to listen to the entire album from Alex Shermer and Gregoire Blanc, click on the link in this month's show notes at Theremin Now let's finish this episode was some avant-garde improvisation featuring Lydia Kavina on Theramin Rick Jensen on saxophone and Misha Mox Salnikov on just about everything else. This is an excerpt of a live performance recorded onstage at Iklectik in London back in 2019.

That was an improvisation featuring Lydia Kavina, Rick Jensen, and Misha Mox Salnikov. If you'd like to hear the entire performance, Misha Moxa Salma cough has a free download available on his Bandcamp page, click his name in this month's show notes. And that's all the time we have for this episode. I want to thank all of the artists who share their music with us. My guests Aleks Schurmer and Gregoire Blanc and the listeners who support the show with small monthly donations. Our next episode will be the beginning of year four of the Theremin 30 podcast. Thank you for everyone who supported the show along the way. We'll see you next time.

David Brower  29:48  
You've been listening to the Theremin 30 podcast visit Theremin 30 on the web at Theremin 30 dot com