Music for Peace of Mind – The Theremin

Music for Peace of Mind was the last of the three projects on which Dr. Samuel J. Hoffman* played theremin on pieces composed by Harry Revel, following 1947’s Music out of the Moon and 1948’s Perfume Set to Music.

We are lucky enough to own a theremin, although I’ve yet to learn to use it properly! The same can be said for my accordion and musical saw…

I love the way that a theremin can sound like the singing of an old forties actress! It has also been described as “an electronic instrument whose sound sometimes resembles human vocalise, the theremin whoops and wails eerily in response to hand gestures near, but not touching, its antenna.” – If you don’t have Spotify (or something similar), you can listen to Music for Peace of Mind here. Many famous artists have included the theremin in their music too, including Tom Waits, The Tiger Lilies and Led Zeppelin.

*Dr. Hoffman started his musical career in New York as Hal Hope. During the daytime he worked as a chiropodist, but in the evening hours he played the violin in a swing and dance band. Samuel Hoffman saw the theremin first in Jolly Coburns band somewhere in the mid thirties and he decided to study the instrument because it would make an interesting novelty in his band. In 1941 Hoffman moved to Los Angeles, and he registered with the musicians local listing as a violin and theremin player…In 1949 Capitol records brought Hoffman and Revel together again, to make another post-war lounge music record: Music for peace of mind. This one is the most dreamy and romantic record in this box. To quote the record sleeve: ‘In every life there are times when things seem to go exactly right; when business and health, life and love, dovetail into a pleasant pattern that results in “peace of mind”. Out troubled and complex world today offers all too few periods when we can relax in this happy mood. At best perhaps we have memories of such moments—The music in this album is dedicated to such moments.Its written and played, not with the crashing chords of conquerors, but with simple relaxed harmonies…gentle rythms…we warm, vibrant tones of a flute in the low register, and themes on the exotic theremin…Songs on this record are: This room is my castle of quiet, The darkness gives me you again, Remembering your lips, My troubles float away like fallen leaves, Your soft hand on my brow, I dream of a past love…The guys at Basta did a wonderful job. The music quality is clear and bright.

I also like to try to sing in the style of a theremin. I can’t really sing and it’s quite painful (physically to me and probably to anyone who hears it), but it’s lots of fun! There must be other people in the world that do this… surely? Or you could give it a go? It comes from the back of the throat. We could start a theremin vocal choir!

You can hear some of our experimental “music” on this earlier post.

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