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.
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.
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.
Although Theremin proposed to her, Rockmore married attorney Robert Rockmore, and thereafter used his name professionally.
She died in New York City on May 10, 1998, aged 87.
Film and video
- Martin, Steven M. (Director) (1995). Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey (Film and DVD). MGM. Retrieved 2009-09-11.
- Moog, Robert (Producer) (1998). Clara Rockmore: The Greatest Theremin Virtuosa (Videotape (VHS)). Moog Music and Little Big Films.
- Moog, Robert (Producer) (2005). Two Theremin Classics (DVD). Moog Music and Little Big Films.
- Glinsky, p. 340
- 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"
- Paradiso, Joseph A.; Neil Gershenfeld (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"
- Pringle, Peter. "Clara Rockmore". Retrieved 2009-09-10. "great virtuoso thereminist of the 20th century ... astounded critics with her theremin artistry"
- 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"
- Ramone, Phil; Danielle Evin (2008-07-11). "Dog Ears Music: Volume Twenty-Eight". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2009-09-10. "Genius thereminist Clara Rockmore"
- Robert Moog, The Art of the Theremin, liner notes, 1987
- "The Nadia Reisenberg & Clara Rockmore Foundation". Retrieved 2011-05-18.
- Glinsky, Albert (2000). Theremin: Ether Music and Espionage. Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0-252-02582-2.
- Moog, Robert (2002-10-27). "In Clara's Words: An Interview with Clara Rockmore". Retrieved 2006-10-19.
- Strauss, D. (2006-06-01). "Clara Rockmore". Retrieved 2006-10-19.
- The Official Nadia Reisenberg Clara Rockmore Foundation Website
- The Clara Rockmore Collection at the Special Collections in Performing Arts at the University of Maryland, College Park
- A Short Photo-biography of Clara Rockmore
- In Clara's Words – An interview Clara Rockmore gave to Bob Moog in 1977.
- In Clara’s Home – Her Last Years, and the Summer of 1997 – An essay, written by Steve J. Sherman, Clara Rockmore's great-nephew and Nadia Reisenberg's grandson, providing an in-depth account of Clara Rockmore’s life during her last decade, up until her death in 1998.
- A MySpace page devoted to Clara Rockmore
- Nadia Reisenberg / Clara Rockmore Foundation
- Streamable NPR "All Songs Considered" show featuring 'Summertime' performed by Clara Rockmore
- Clara Rockmore. La diva del éter (Spanish bio by Audionautas)