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What's on City of Melbourne

Giant Theremin

City of Melbourne’s Giant Theremin is a super-sized musical instrument standing more than seven metres tall, controlled by movement rather than touch and can be played by up to eight people at once. The theremin’s unique warble is accompanied by an array of distinctive sounds, making it impossible to resist running, dancing, jumping and forming unusual shapes in the activation zone to create a symphony of movement.

The Giant Theremin was a City of Melbourne initiative, created by renowned Melbourne-based artist, Robin Fox. The Giant Theremin is not currently installed, but stay tuned for local announcements.

The Giant Theremin was a concept developed in partnership with the VicHealth MOTION program. Through seven unique projects, MOTION aimed to increase understanding of how being involved in the arts contributes to a mentally, socially and physically healthy lifestyle.

Artist Statement – Robin Fox

When the City of Melbourne approached me about designing a Giant Theremin I was instantly intrigued. Anybody interested in electronic music is familiar with the theremin, an incredible instrument approaching 100 years old that amazed audiences across Europe and the United States in the 1920’s and 30’s.

Even people who are unfamiliar with the theremin are sure to be able to recognise its distinct sound, used in countless film soundtracks (most commonly in science fiction). What captured the imagination of all who saw the instrument was the fact that Leon Theremin seemed to be pulling sound out of the ether.

Without making any physical contact with a string, skin or fret board, the Theremin (YouTube video) was able to play tunes with great precision and attention to detail.

Now, at the beginning of the second decade of the 21st Century, the ubiquitous ‘i' devices that allow us to exchange photos by bumping phones together and the theremin-like controls of soap dispensers and taps across all major airport bathrooms has surely changed the way we interact with machines and our understanding of our position in relation to technology. But despite all this, there is still something simple and quite magical about an instrument that we can play from a distance, with no physical contact whatsoever.

What I have attempted to do with this interactive instrument is extend the idea of the Theremin in both scale and function. It is designed to make people move and to make people listen, not only to their own sound but to the sound of others engaging with the instrument as well. Unlike the original theremin, which was monophonic (one voice), the Giant Theremin is polyphonic (many voices). So people can play this instrument together, shifting their position in space in order to shift the pitch and loudness of their sound. When many are playing, it may be difficult to discern who has which voice: far from a problem this simply changes the nature of the game.

Enjoy the instrument!

Robin Fox

More information

Girl dancing in front of Giant Theremin