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09/20/91

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Press conference to feature pioneers in electronic music

STANFORD -- Two pioneers in electronic music will hold a news conference at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 25, at Stanford's Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics.

On hand at the Knoll (off Lomita Drive, behind Florence Moore Hall) will be Leon Theremin, 95, the Russian inventor of the first practical electronic musical instrument in analog technology, and Max Mathews, creator of the first electronic instrument using digital technology.

Music Prof. John Chowning, director of the computer music center, said that the music world was astonished when Theremin "reappeared" in 1990 after so many years, some of them spent in a Soviet labor camp.

Theremin will be accompanied by his daughter, Natasha Theremin, who will give a demonstration on the instrument, which was named for and invented by her father. There also will be a demonstration of Mathews' "radio baton."

Also present will be Vladimir Komarov, a Russian composer whose work includes electro-acoustic compositions.

Theremin was born in 1896 in St. Petersburg, where he studied music and physics. He invented the "Theremin" in 1920, then went to New York in 1927 where his new instrument was developed by RCA. The Theremin produces an electrical signal based on the proximity of a performer's hands to two antennae, one hand controlling pitch and the other controlling loudness.

Until 1938, when Theremin returned to the Soviet Union, the Theremin was used by a number of performers and composers in New York. Since then, it has been used in concerts and films and has had an impact on the development of electronic instruments.

Mathews, who studied music while following an engineering career at Bell Telephone Laboratories, in 1957 devised the means by which a digital computer can be used to synthesize and process musical signals.

A concert honoring Theremin and Mathews, and celebrating Stanford's work in electro-acoustic music, will be held at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 27, in Frost Amphitheater.

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