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Marc Chouarain On Pulling Music Out Of Thin Air

Multi-instrumentalist, film composer and rare instrument enthusiast, Marc Chouarain, teaches Talia Schlanger how to play the Theremin.
Lesya Matsko
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Courtesy of the artist
Multi-instrumentalist, film composer and rare instrument enthusiast, Marc Chouarain, teaches Talia Schlanger how to play the Theremin.

There may be more theremins than pieces of furniture in Marc Chouarain's apartment on the classic Parisian street Rue Montorgeil. The multi-instrumentalist, film composer and rare instrument enthusiast believes he has one of the biggest theremin collections in the world and invited us over to learn about the the very first electronic instrument.

The theremin was invented in 1920 by scientist Lev Sergeyevich Termen, also known as Léon Theremin, and was originally used in very serious classical contexts before it came to signify plot twists in sci-fi films. To play the theremin, you don't touch the instrument itself, but rather manipulate the electromagnetic fields it creates. As Marc explains, it's "like pinching a string in the air." While that may sound like magic, it involves an incredible amount of musicality and control, which I learned as Chouarain gave me my first lesson.

Hear it all in the player.

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Talia Schlanger hosts World Cafe, which is distributed by NPR and produced by WXPN, the public radio service of the University of Pennsylvania. She got her start in broadcasting at the CBC, Canada's national public broadcaster. She hosted CBC Radio 2 Weekend Mornings on radio and was the on-camera host for two seasons of the television series CBC Music: Backstage, as well as several prime-time music TV specials for CBC, including the Quietest Concert Ever: On Fundy's Ocean Floor. Schlanger also guest hosted various flagship shows on CBC Radio One, including As It Happens, Day 6 and Because News. Schlanger also won a Canadian Screen Award as a producer for CBC Music Presents: The Beetle Roadtrip Sessions, a cross-country rock 'n' roll road trip.