The Plant Theremin


Presentation Title:

  • The Plant Theremin



  • The “plant theremin” is a simple wooden box 12″ by 12″ with knobs and electronics inside. A small house plant sits on top.

    Originally known as the etherphone, the theremin is an early electronic musical instrument invented by Russian physicist, inventor and extraordinaire Lev Sergeevich Termen in 1920. The theremin was originally a product of Soviet government sponsored research on proximity sensors but has remained a unique instrument that has captivated many. This instrument is played with out any physical contact. The thereminist stands in front of the instrument moving their hands near the two antennas, one that is responsible for pitch and the other volume. These antennas act as plates in a capacitor. The difference between the frequencies of the two oscillators at each moment allows the creation of a difference tone in the audio frequency range, resulting in audio signals that are amplified and sent to a loudspeaker.
    With a background in plant physiology and inspired by this unique electronic instrument, I set out to build a theremin made out of a plant. Now, I use the plant theremin as my musical instrument by holding my hand up to the plant and literally “playing” the notes of the plant. I will present the research on my new instrument, the process of building it and of course I will perform with it. The aim of this new musical instrument is to bring people, music and plants together and to invoke curiosity of plants, physics and music.