The Visual Theremin

The theremin.

To some, it’s the instrument that reminds us of one of popular culture’s most famous theme songs. To others, it’s the confusing flailing of arms to create music. And to others still, it sounds like a medicine or a small rodent.

Theremin plays the theremin

“Honey, can you pass me a tube of Theremin? The theremin bit me and I think it might be infected.”

In order to help their visitors better understand the origin of the theremin, Australia’s MAAS Powerhouse Museum built an interactive exhibit, allowing visitors to get their hands on, or rather get their hands a few inches above, this unique instrument.

MAAS Powerhouse Theremin Raspberry Pi

As advocates of learning by doing, the team didn’t simply want to let their museumgoers hear the theremin. They wanted them to see it too. So to accomplish this task, they chose a BitScope Blade Uno, along with a Raspberry Pi, BitScope, and LCD monitor.

MAAS Theremin Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi and BitScope are left on display so visitors may better understand how the exhibit works.

BitScope go into a deeper explanation of how the entire exhibit fits together on their website:

The Raspberry Pi, powered and mounted on the BitScope Blade Uno, provided the computing platform to drive the display (via HDMI), and it also ran the BitScope application.

The BitScope itself, also mounted on the Blade, was connected (via USB) to the Raspberry Pi and powered by the Blade.

The theremin output was connected via splitters (so they could also be connected to a sound amplifier) and BNC terminated coaxial cables to the analogue inputs via a BitScope probe adapter.

We’d love to see a video of the MAAS theremin in action so if you’re reading this, MAAS, please send us a video. Until then, have this:


Alan Mc (Irish Framboise) avatar

At first I thought it was Leonard as the Trekkie in that first youtube link =oD Thanks for brightening my Monday. Who needs “more cowbell” when you can have “more theremin”?

Gizmo avatar

I thought the exact same thing XD

David Akerman avatar


Bruce Goatly avatar

Hmmm. I obviously live in a different era now: my immediate thought was of Midsomer Murders. Star Trek was on while I was at university – happy times.

zak zebrowski avatar

Mine too.

Jordan avatar

I saw it on a museum years ago! Psychedelic sound!

Lee Chilvers avatar

Oh I’d love to have a go on one of these! That episode of Big Bang you have the clip for was so funny. It looks like a lot of fun to play :-)

Jeremy Verity avatar

Best Theremin memories ever: Good Vibrations

M. Davis avatar

Leonid Theremin Was sent to the US By the Soviet Secret police to copy Patents and bring them back. He disappeared from the New York social scene upon his recall. He received the order of Lennon (not John) for his creation of listening devices including one that was the US seal carved in wood with a resonant cavity. His final days he lived in obscurity in Soviet Russia his instrument looked upon with disdain as decadent and unmusical… Sad. The man was brilliant.

Sheldon’s Routine is reminiscent of the same routine Jerry Lewis did in a B&W movie. Bernard Hermann used 2 to realize the score of “The day the earth stood still.” Interesting.

M. Davis avatar

Theremin used a pocket knife to tune his original instrument. The instrument used tubes and was a radio circuit. He recognized something happening and refined it into the instrument we know today.

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