Rockmore, Clara (1910–1998)

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Rockmore, Clara (1910–1998)

Lithuanian musician who was recognized as the master of the theremin, an electronic musical instrument. Name variations: Clara Reisenberg. Born Clara Reisenberg in Vilna (now Vilnius), Lithuania, in 1910; died in New York on May 12, 1998; sister of Nadia Reisenberg (1904–1983).

Born in Lithuania in 1910, Clara Rockmore was admitted to the St. Petersburg Conservatory as a violinist at age five, the youngest musician to enroll at the time. Her musical career took an unexpected turn, however, when she took up the theremin, an electronic musical instrument invented in 1919 by Russian physicist Leon Theremin. The theremin, played by waving hands between two antennae to alter musical pitch and volume, has been compared to a wordless soprano voice or an enchanted cello and enjoyed early attention in science-fiction movies. Rockmore was the recognized master of the instrument; according to one source, she was as adept with the theremin as musical legend Jimi Hendrix was with the electric guitar. Rockmore appeared in the film Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey in 1994, and again in a 1998 video documentary, Clara Rockmore, the Greatest Theremin Virtuosa. She died in Manhattan on May 12, 1998, approximately one month after that documentary's release.

sources and suggested reading:

"Clara Rockmore, 88: Virtuosa on unusual instrument," in The Day [New London, CT]. May 12, 1998.

Darreg, Ivor, and Bart Hopkin. "Still Nothing Else Like It: The Theremin," in Experimental Musical Instruments. Vol. 8, no. 3. March 1993.

"This Musician Also Could Play The Air Guitar," in Wall Street Journal. March 25, 1998.

Stephen Tschirhart , freelance writer, Birmingham, Michigan