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DORIT CHRYSLER INTERVIEW

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DORIT CHRYSLER
  When did you discover the Theremin and what made you gravitate toward it?


  About ten years ago a friend had a theremin for repair at his house, he demonstrated it to me and I was intrigued!


 Rather than the austere approach some theremin players have, you seem to utilise it in a professional yet playful way , sometimes paying homage to sci-fi kitsch, a style more akin to its famous usage  in 1950's sci-fi movies, where do you draw you inspiration from for your style?

   I appreciate the emotional expressiveness a theremin brings to the 
 table, I like its humour too, it's drama and its eeriness, mostly the 
 unique way of laying several layers on top of it, when it creates a 
 weaving effect that taps into the subconscious.
 But yes, I grew up being a huge star trek fan, so I could easily relate to the theremin from its sci-fi angle, it just doesn't stop there, for me the theremin 
is a serious instrument, even when also used in a light and playful way - different styles, bring it on!

 Does Léon Theremin's life interest you - the eccentricity and
 innovation? As with Nikola Tesla his life was permeated with a 
strangeness and otherness - does the alluring arcane romanticism of this period in scientific discovery permeate your attitude and 
 approach toward the Theremin? Are there any areas of science that really interest you?

  Obviously I want to know what makes things work and the innovative 
 lives of both Theremin and Tesla are fascinating and inspiring. I 
 ventured to Belgrade to play right next to a Tesla coil and Tesla's 
 ashes in a museum carrying his name -I also traced back Theremin's 
 early life when i was in St. Petersburg, the big question beckons if 
 those two ever met during their time in NY, the city has many traces 
 of both of them. To be honest, my strength lies more in history than 
 physics, but i do like to take a screwdriver in my hand and fix things.

Are there any tweaks or adjustments that you have implemented to a Theremin ,or inventive ways you have discovered of manipulating the Theremin's sound and capability?

 It seems to be a big job already to get the intonation right, so i am a 
bit conservative when it comes to that, I do enjoy sending the theremin 
through different effect boxes though to influence its voicing, some old 
guitar effect box that I customized, a line 6 pedal and some 
moogerfoogers, then some looping to turn the phonophonic instrument 
polyphonic.
 Moog music is working on a new Theremin based prototype and i am working with the engineers to customize some of its settings, so that is a big thrill to actually be able to influence the design of an instrument. The 
outcome remains to be seen!

  What's the most fun or innovative project you have been involved with Theremin wise?

 Hard to tell, there have been so many different angles, playing along 
and being attacked by dancers, but my favourite was a production by
Philippe Quesne, a big bus filled with an innocent audience drove into a 
big hall filled with smoke, as people stumble out of the bus, 
disoriented by the fog, the headlights of the bus hit the Thereminist 
and the music starts, a setting like swamps in a horror movie, a 
Thereminist's wet dream!!

 
Your collaborations have been excitingly diverse, and as well as
 lending  melodies and atmosphere to peoples work ,you have also guested with artists with a very abrasive sound - what was it like collaborating with J G Thirwell, and how did that come about?

 JG Thirlwell and myself go a while back, we dated for some years and 
ave been best friends ever since. One of my first big tours was opening 
for foetus, and it influenced me very much, I think, mostly in terms of 
showmanship. I know his, as you call it, abrasive sound but I also know 
other musical sides of his very eclectic tastes, in general I like the 
challenge of finding a way to collaborate even if it does not seem
obvious at first sight, either you like it or not, the theremin has many 
faces. I like to rock it and I think it important to involve this 
instrument in contemporary sound.

 Are you interested in scoring soundtracks for movies and if so 
 what type of movie would be ideal for you to compose a soundtrack to?

  So far I have done music for short movies or licensed songs for 
 different scenes in tv and movies, but obviously, of course, my 
 phantasy soundtrack would be for a scary spooky & seductive mad b-movie!

 
 Last year you expanded your sound into seductive electronic pop by collaborating with Anders Trentem
øller on the fantastic Avalanche EP, was this a liberating genre for you to work in?

  It was a good angle to take, he told me to sing low and his support 
 gave me the confidence to try some different things. it has been a 
 great experience and beckons to be followed by an LP.

 
What's the music scene in New York like now, what places/scenes 
 can you recommend? How has New York changed over the years since you relocated there?

  New York is in constant flux and I don't even know where to begin, 
 definitely check out concerts at the new rough trade store in 
 Brooklyn, my personal discovery has been Pioneer works 
 (pioneerworks.org) in Red Hook Brooklyn, a place for art and 
 innovation, and i discovered some great things there.

 Are there any stories, funny ,bizarre or otherwise you would care 
 to share with us from all your time as a performer?

  About to play a synagogue in Serbia, when the organizers refused the 
 concert as they had discovered a picture of me with Marilyn Mansion, 
 the devil as they called him, but my favourite incident is when, 
 playing in a small eastern European town, an orthodox priest held his 
 cross not against me but against the theremin as to protect the 
 audience from its evil, something like this just doesn't happen when 
 you are a trombonist..

 What does 2014 hold for Dorit Chrysler?

 Conducting a theremin orchestra, a commission for a soundtrack by MoMA, creating a song each for 10 photographs in an exhibition, working and hopefully finishing my new record and, ideally, being challenged and 
surprised along the way.
 Virtuoso Theremin Player DORIT CHRYSLER - founder of the NEW YORK THEREMIN SOCIETY and currently working with MOOG MUSIC on a new Theremin prototype -  has collaborated with an astounding amount of established artists that inc. Tony Conrad, Foetus, Chicks on Speed, Jean-Jacques Perrey and countless others (Be sure to check out her website for more info), demonstrating her versatility and diverse approach to one of popular cultures most irreverent and infamous instruments. Black Forest spoke to her about her active and past projects, her recent collaboration with Trentemøller and her plans for this year...
Further reading for anyone interested in the origins of the Theremin:

Theremin: Ether Music and Espionage 

AUTHOUR: ALBERT GLINSKY (2005)
© BLACK FOREST 2014
NEW YORK THEREMIN SOCIETY HOMEPAGE: 
(University of Illinois Press)