Clara Rockmore

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Clara Rockmore's Lost Theremin Album

Clara Rockmore (March 9, 1911 – May 10, 1998[1]) was a Lithuanian virtuoso performer of the theremin, an electronic musical instrument.[2][3][4][5][6]


Born as Clara Reisenberg in Vilnius, Vilna Governorate (now Lithuania), Rockmore was a child prodigy on the violin and entered the Imperial conservatory of Saint Petersburg at the age of five. She studied violin under the virtuoso Leopold Auer, and remains to this day the youngest student ever to be admitted to the institution. Unfortunately, bone problems due to childhood malnutrition forced her to abandon violin performance past her teen years. That however led her to discover the newborn electronic instrument and become perhaps the most renowned player of the theremin.

Her older sister was the concert pianist Nadia Reisenberg who accompanied some of Clara's concerts.

Rockmore had several gifts that enabled her to play the theremin so well. Her classical training gave her an advantage over the many theremin performers who lacked this background. She possessed absolute pitch, helpful in playing an instrument that generates tones of any pitch throughout its range, not just those defined by equal temperament. She had extremely precise, rapid control of her movements, important in playing an instrument that depends on the performer's motion and proximity rather than touch. She also had the advantage of working directly with Léon Theremin from the early days of the instrument's commercial development in the United States.[7]

Rockmore, as the mature musician she was, saw the limitations of the original instrument and helped to develop the instrument to fulfill her needs, making several suggestions to improve the theremin as a performing instrument. Such suggestions, like a faster volume antenna, wider musical range, and control over the instrument's tone color were incorporated by the inventor in later versions. She had a special theremin tailored by Léon Theremin himself to meet her unique requirements.[7]

She developed a whole technique for playing the instrument, including a fingering system, which allowed her to perform accurately fast passages and large note leaps without the much known portamento on theremin.[7]

Although Theremin proposed to her, Rockmore married attorney Robert Rockmore, and thereafter used his name professionally.[8]

She died in New York City on May 10, 1998, aged 87.


Film and video[edit]

Popular Culture[edit]

The Irish electro-pop band, The Garland Cult, included the song "Clare Rockmore" on their 2007 album Protect Yourself from Hollywood.


  1. ^ Glinsky, p. 340
  2. ^ Ostertag, Bob (December 2002). "Human bodies, computer music". Leonardo Music Journal (MIT Press) 12: 13. doi:10.1162/096112102762295070. Retrieved 2009-09-10. "Clara Rockmore, in particular, became a bona fide theremin virtuoso by any definition of the word" 
  3. ^ Paradiso, Joseph A.; Gershenfeld, Neil (Summer 1997). "Musical Applications of Electric Field Sensing". Computer Music Journal. series (MIT Press) 21:2 (2): 69–89. JSTOR 3681109. "few things since have matched Clara Rockmore's lyrical dynamics" 
  4. ^ Pringle, Peter. "Clara Rockmore". Retrieved 2009-09-10. "great virtuoso thereminist of the 20th century ... astounded critics with her theremin artistry" 
  5. ^ Bailey, Bill (2004-10-15). "Weird science". The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-09-10. "Clara Rockmore was rightly hailed in her time as a true star. ... Rockmore gained more recognition for her playing of the instrument than Theremin himself ever did for inventing it. ... warm praise from music critics" 
  6. ^ Ramone, Phil; Evin, Danielle (2008-07-11). "Dog Ears Music: Volume Twenty-Eight". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2009-09-10. "Genius thereminist Clara Rockmore" 
  7. ^ a b c Robert Moog, The Art of the Theremin, liner notes, 1987
  8. ^ "The Nadia Reisenberg & Clara Rockmore Foundation". Retrieved 2011-05-18. 


External links[edit]