Theremin’s Journey

Composed in:
2009
Description:
piano, Theremin, pre-recorded electronica
Duration:
16 minutes
Publisher:
Doblinger Music Publishers, Vienna (catalog# 01 681)
Commissioned by:
Piano Spheres for Joanne Pearce Martin, Keyboardist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic
Premiere performance:
March 16, 2010, Zipper Hall, Los Angeles, CA
CD recording:
Gernot Wolfgang, SHORT STORIES, Albany Records CD TROY1248

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Award of Merit at the Global Music Awards, September 2012

Purchase the sheet music for Theremin’s Journey at:

Theodore Front Musical Literature, Inc.

Reviews:

“Wolfgang’s Theremin’s Journey is scored for that odd hands-in-the-air electronic gadget that emits otherworldly sounds, along with piano and electronica (a Mac computer). Not having a video handy as I listened, I’ll have to take KUSC’s word that the multi-talented Martin performed all the music I heard during the course of the piece. (OK, some of the electronic elements may have been prerecorded.)

Journey is an atmospheric mood piece with a retro pop-jazz feel to it. Here’s my fanciful take: the Theremin (beloved of old sci-fi films) takes us initially to a forbidden planet where Robbie the Robot might at any moment burst out from behind a rock. A couple of motifs of romantic longing from the Theremin, with the piano echoing them, then beam us back to a film-noirish earth. We arrive in an Edward Hopper painting in the wee small hours of a sleepy Gotham. A morose Frank Sinatra, his girl having ditched him, sits at the other end of the bar with his only-the-lonely drink. Journey‘s middle section gets more animated and inventive but the mood lingers just as hauntingly. There’s a great piano riff that suggests a startled cockroach scampering across the floor. Despite the eerie elements, the work overall keeps to a mood of wistful reverie. The scale is at once intimate and infinite.

Gernot Wolfgang knows what he’s doing. (Even if I may be off base in my response). Theremin’s Journey is mixture of old electronics, new media and traditional piano with more than enough incident to transcend its vernacular idiom into something very cool, clever, and seductive.

And you don’t even need a vaccination against modern music pretensions before listening to it.”

Rodney Punt, LA Opus

“For many in the classical world, the word electronica on a track listing carries a certain discomfort, bringing to mind mind-numbing hours spent sitting through interminable student composer concerts. Thankfully, while Theremin’s Journey does incorporate large amounts of electronica, it is electronica of the coolest kind. Here, the computer sounds are interwoven with live piano and theremin, creating a sound world that is as worthy of the concert hall as it is for an art house movie.”

Ryan Romine, The Double Reed

Friday’s Hear Now program, a collaboration with People Inside Electronics (an L.A. electroacoustic music series), began with Gernot Wolfgang’s Theremin’s Journey. More wonderful wailing, this time, played by Thereminist and pianist Joanne Pearce Martin, and taking its cue from the electroacoustic draught of Miles Davis’ “Bitches Brew.”

Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times

Theremin’s Journey (2010) by Gernot Wolfgang was first, and this began a low rumble of processed sound accompanied by bell-like chimes that was soon joined by the theremin. The distinctive sound of the theremin is invariably linked with 1950s science fiction movies, but in this piece the alien, otherworldly sound connected nicely with the underlying electronics, even when the theremin was dominating the texture. The sound of the theremin was an integral part of this piece and not simply a stylistic effect. Joanne Pearce Martin provided solid control over the pitch and entrances of the theremin and her virtuosity was all the more evident when she switched to the piano as the piece progressed. Theremin’s Journey proceeded in this way, with Ms. Martin alternating between piano and theremin. There was a more familiar feel to this piece when the piano was heard, and a sense of movement and energy was provided by several fast runs and short bursts of phrases. At other times the piano was unaccompanied, or gentle and reflective. By contrast, the sections featuring the theremin typically had a distant and sometimes lonely feel. The balance between the various elements – electronics, piano and theremin – was remarkable and the playing was controlled and consistent. Theremin’s Journey could have easily failed on several levels – technical issues, performance difficulties or by simply sounding cliché, but this high-risk piece came off successfully and convincingly on its own terms.

Paul Muller, Sequenza 21

” … the listener is off on a bizarre jazz meets sci-fi meets film-pop journey. The high-pitched spooky whine of the theremin is unmistakable, and unforgettable in small doses, as here; the work was in fact commissioned by Joanne Pearce Martin, who plays both theremin and piano … Especially the first and last two or three minutes of the ‘journey’ are really quite fascinating musically.”

Byzantion, Musicweb-International

” The delicately whining Theremin and the dryly-aggressive piano set against a subtle Electronica background combine for an imaginative sonic journey.”

Max Nyffeler, Neue Musikzeitung (Germany)

“Sophisticated writing paired with exquisit harmonization. The piece enriches the repertoire for Theremin.”

Suonare News (Italy)