Stearns Collection Item Detail


Name of Instrument: theremin

Maker / Brand: Radio-Victor Corporation of America (RCA)

Stearns Catalog #: 2009

Country of Origin: New York, New York, USA

Region of Origin: North America

Instrument Category: Electrophone

Date of Fabrication: early-20th C.

Location: CHO X 1

Description: This Theramin, built in New York in the early 20th Century, served on the early radio show “The Green Hornet” from 1938 to 1952. It was owned and played by Vera Richardson Simpson (1927-1977). As one of the very first electronic instruments, it was invented in 1920 by Lev Termen, a Russian inventor. Termen had originally called it the "aetherphon". It has a three-and-a-half octave range and inspired Robert A. Moog--of the Moog synthesizer--to create his own five octave theramins for sale in the middle 1950s.

The player never actually touches the instrument, instead the frequency of the single pitch is altered by the relative proximity of the right hand to the vertical antenna. Left hand motion at the horizontal metal loop antenna controls volume. The piece was restored in 1988 by Bob Vernon. This theramin is Model AR-1264; its serial number is 403. The loudspeaker is an RCA Model 106; its serial number is 252850.

Research: Stearns Staff