Theremin Noir

Rob Schwimmer (theremin, daxophone, accordian, toys)
Mark Feldman (violin)
Uri Caine (piano)
November Music NVR2005-2 (import)

Buy "Theremin Noir" CD $15 + shipping $2.50
This CD has little, if anything to do with Polygraph Lounge, except that I'm on it. It is non-comedic and rather dark, strange, and intense. If these attributes sound interesting, this may be for you. Rob Schwimmer

  • Theremin Noir is inhabited by an uncanny beauty. A moody, delicate, and highly original album. Strongly recommended. -- François Couture, All-Music Guide (Dec. 2001)
  • a little masterpiece--Rating: 4.5 stars All About Jazz (Italy)
  • a marvelous release--(Best of 2000 List) DMG
  • Haunting and unforgettable -- The Wire (UK)
  • Accomplished theremin virtuoso...Schwimmer's own compositions are what makes the disc especially memorable...Disciplined freedom -- Jazzwise (UK)
  • Master Improvisor -- WNYC Radio

Chip Stern
Jazz Times (2003)
"I was so bowled over by the modern jazz chamber music on keyboardist Rob Schwimmer's Theremin Noir (with pianist Uri Caine and violinist Mark Feldman, available at, that I sought out Moog's Etherwave theremin so that I too might learn how to navigate it."

Rob Schwimmer - Photo: Julie Mardin
Q Reed Ghazala
Legendary Instrument Inventor/ Father of Circuit Bending
That's the best theremin CD I've heard! Your control is wonderful. The CD is a masterful studio piece; the players use space respectfully and the interpretations are sensitive. Musicianship is strong - all players shine. Packaging is unique as well.
Thanks much - I'll listen a lot.

Albert Glinsky
author of the ASCAP Deems Taylor award-winning biography of Leon Theremin
says of "Theremin Noir"--
«The album is indeed wonderful, and spilling over with sonic surprises. The swooning, intoxicating, "Waltz for Clara," is a fitting homage to the late Rockmore's mastery of romantic repertoire, updated with a postmodern nostalgia. "Fireflies in Tainan" is mysteriously contemplative, and contrasts beautifully with the demonic "Sacrifice"--echoes of Franz Liszt's "Totentanz." The intriguing "Tesla's Blues" reminds us of the theremin's legacy with its hints of an early analog synth sequencer vamp. The rich variety of the album is evident also in Mark Feldman's velvety violin lines, especially in the spare, angular "Real Joe," with its Shostakovich-like intensity. Uri Caine's masterful keyboard work provides a buoyant foundation for the fresh timbres of this unique album. Several arrangements of well-known film score songs round out a perfectly balanced series of selections that will find appeal among a wide cross section of music lovers.»

Chip Stern
Positive Feedback #6
Rob Schwimmer/Uri Caine/Mark Feldman --: Theremin Noir (November Music)

Musically, keyboardist-multi-instrumentalist Rob Schwimmer has always had a mischievous sense of humor (as with the dead-on musical parodies he and Mark Stewart stage under the aegis of Polygraph Lounge), but he doesn't play things for laughs on Theremin Noir. No, this is darkly evocative modern chamber music, with a healthy dollop of improvisation, and exceptional sonics to boot. Teaming with such borderless musicians as pianist Uri Caine and violinist Mark Feldman (both of whom have extensive experience in a variety of classical and jazz contexts), Schwimmer employs the Moog Etherwave Theremin, accordion, waterphone, daxophone and a variety of musical toys to add colorations to their round robin exchanges and tight arrangements --but mostly to stand front and center as the trio's poignant vocal presence. And yes, I do mean vocal, because while Schwimmer only occasionally exploits the theremin for its ability to produce goofy sci-fi suggestions of things which go bump in the night ("Parade on Mars"), he recognizes the lyric qualities this under-appreciated antecedent to the modern synthesizer can bring to acoustic settings... which is what makes Theremin Noir so unique in the recorded annals of the theremin. So if you're on the prowl for sound effects (which is what most people generally associate with the theremin --when they think of it as all) go dig out your Raymond Scott CDs, because Schwimmer's repertoire is rife with post-modern instrumental settings, including several fascinating interpretations of thematic highlights culled from the oeuvre of film composer Bernard Hermann, who created an astonishing musical-psychological subtext for director Alfred Hitchcock's greatest films (and who himself employed a theremin to excellent effect in his score to Robert Wise's 1951 sci-fi classic, The Day The Earth Stood Still). On Schwimmer's exceptionally moving variations to the main theme from Hitchcock's Marnie, and all through the shadowy romantic changes of his own "Twilight Landscape," Schwimmer navigates the theremin with the operatic aplomb of an accomplished mezzo-soprano, while on "Waltz For Clara" he employs an accordion to convey a certain gypsy-on-the-boulevard character to this heartfelt tribute to the late Clara Rockmore (the theremin's most visionary practitioner). Collaborators Caine and Feldman play with nuanced intensity throughout; the perspective of the piano is a tad distant, yet rendered with nice detail and dynamic snap, while the soundstaging depth and lateral imaging is such that the overtone series of the violin and theremin are often interchangeable, though each is clearly delineated in the mix --as such, Theremin Noir will offer some useful insights as to the resolution capabilities of your loudspeaker's tweeter.

Roger Thomas
JazzReview - February, 2001.
Schwimmer / Caine / Feldman: Theremin Noir
Twilight Landscape; Waltz For Clara; The Neighbors; Fireflies In Tainan; Marnie; Sacrifice; Carlotta; Nightmare; Scene D'Amour; Tesla's Blues; The Fly; Real Joe; The Bookstore; The Parade In Mars; Paralysis/Circle.
Rob Schwimmer (theremins, acc, waterphone, daxophone, toys)
Uri Caine (p.v)
Mark Feldman (vn)
File this one between Raymond Scott and John Zorn. This wonderful instrument has been karate-chopped by Jimmy Page and waved at by Billy Jenkins, but the weirder end of popular cinema has always seemed to be its natural home. Invented in 1920 by the Russian Lev Terman (Leon Theremin to the French and, subsequently, the world), the instrument, like the Ondes Martenot, has become a classic example of electronic music technology which should somehow have been surpassable but which in fact has proved to be anything but, being both operationally (its sound is produced by the proximity of the player's hands to two antennae) and sonically (see below) unique. Unlike the Ondes, the theremin underwent a revival of sorts a few years ago, to the extent that you could simply pop round to the shops and buy one for the price of a Casio keyboard. The renewed respect which this afforded the instrument may be one of the contributing factors which makes this CD such an excellent item. The occasional dustings-off the theremin has received in the intervening years have tended to focus on its whoops-and-swoops novelty value, completely losing sight of the fact that, in the right hands (such as those of the late Clara Rockmore, for whom Schwimmer composed the second track as a tribute), it can be cajoled into a deeply expressive musicality, its yearning glissandi sitting somewhere between the female voice and the violin; here Feldman expertly blends it with the latter. Also, there are theremins and theremins (it's all in the oscillators - or, er, possibly the output stage) and Schwimmer uses gorgeously full-toned instruments by Moog (yes, him) and Big Briar, as well as a rather specialised percussion instrument involving steel prongs attached to a container of water and one of Hans Reichel's legendary daxophones. In repertoire terms, film buffs will pick up on Schwimmer's arrangements of classic Bernard Herrmann film score excerpts from Marnie, Vertigo and Torn Curtain. The remaining pieces, composed by the performers, combine the mystery and melodrama of the instrument in tasteful proportions. Good stuff.

Rob Schwimmer - Photo: Julie Mardin
Glenn Astarita
All About Jazz - March, 2001
Rob Schwimmer, Uri Caine, Mark Feldman Theremin Noir(November Music)
On this release, multi-instrumentalist Rob Schwimmer demonstrates his expertise and creativity on the theremin, an instrument which has been called the predecessor to the Moog synthesizer. At times, Schwimmer's melodies are eerie, poignantly beautiful or somewhat morose, while the artist garners reverent assistance from pianist Uri Caine and violinist Mark Feldman as the trio toggles between modern/free jazz motifs and semi-austere, contemporary classical-style sequences. Schwimmer also incorporates the accordian, waterphone, daxophone and "various toys", into these enticingly surreal pieces.

Mark Russell
BBC Radio 3 - Mixing It
...a wonderful CD...The music doffs its cap to the golden age of theremin film scores as well as pointing up its experimental potential in wild violin and piano trios... Schwimmer is the Jimi Hendrix of the theremin..

François Couture
All-Music Guide - December 2001
So many years after its invention, the theremin (an electro-magnetic instrument triggered by hand gestures) remains cruelly under-exposed, but consequently kept its aura of mystery. This session between theremin virtuoso Rob Schwimmer, pianist Uri Caine and violinist Mark Feldman is therefore a highly unusual one. Most of the material was written by Schwimmer or arranged by him from Bernard Herrmann's film scores. A few tracks were collectively written or improvised. The instrument's innate ability for eerie glissandos secured it a recurring role in horror/suspense movies. Herrmann was one of the first to understand its potential and used it in his soundtracks for Alfred Hitchcock, especially in Vertigo. Schwimmer picked the best moments (Carlotta's Portrait/Farewell,) (The Nightmare/The Tower2), reaching the CD's highlight in his arrangement of Scene d'Amour, a gripping number where all three musicians showcase their talents, building to an irresistible climax. The theremin's wail can mimic the human voice (a ghostly, haunting one) or string instruments (either violin, viola or cello, depending on the register used). Many times the listener isn't quite sure who is playing the melody. To complement the theremin1s range of expression, the leader occasionally uses effects or turn to the harsher daxophone. The music varies from foggy cabaret jazz numbers (Uri Caine's personal touch) to cinematic music crossed with contemporary classical. Highly lyrical, always firmly tonal and melodic, even though the instrumentation makes it feel off-the-wall and avant-gardist, Theremin Noir is inhabited by an uncanny beauty. A moody, delicate, and highly original album. Strongly recommended.

and if that doesn't convince you...

Immo Mihkelson
Eesti Postimees - March 2001
Schwimmer-Caine-Feldman Theremin Noir November Music
Sügisese nimega Londoni plaadifirma, mida juhib üks Taiwanilt pärit mees, on päris ilmselt vtnud eeskuju viimastel aastatel ootamatult edukaks osutunud Winter & Winterilt. Alles kümmekond plaati teinud November Music kujundab samuti plaadiümbrisi eriliseks kunstisündmuseks, paneb samamoodi plaatidele muusikat, mis pürib olema rohkemat kui lihtsalt helide tekitamine. Theremin Noir on keskmesse paigutanud vana, ent revolutsioonilise elektroonilise muusikariista theremini, mida viimastel aastatel on taas kasutama hakanud nii ärksama vaimuga popmuusikud kui ka avangardistid. Rob Schwimmer on thereminist helide välja meelitamisel teline virtuoos ning need helipildid, mida ta koos klahvpillimängija Uri Cainei ja viiuldaja Mark Feldmaniga siin maalib, on ühtaegu hirmu tekitavalt kaunid kui ka ebamaiselt erilised. Et tegemist on helipiltidega rhutab ka fakt, et ige mitu lugu plaadil on filmimuusika klassikult Bernard Hermannilt, kes li helitaustu Hitchcocki filmidele ning kasutas muide mitmel puhul samuti thereminit. Kolme muusiku ühine tegevus mahub loosungi alla ainult kujutlusvime seab piirid. Lisavahendite kasutamisega liialdamata tekitavad nad erilisi aeglaselt liikuvaid ja paaril hetkel ka neurootiliselt vbelevaid heli?'$AtP2Lr#˽*z%NUʫ°oG{&]‚ 6$fw7v|}YTdHW^ƃf_󝾐Kzv@@D.,s&6 |'Plh" c?H%]2+6 0>NZ Z2_[o ߬,ACPzZcg&eU}yYX12PRd*=J