The story of the theremin is one of heartbreak, love and... international espionage?
Clara Reisenberg, the subject of today's (Mar. 9) Google Doodle on what would have been her 105th birthday, was born in Vilnius, Lithuania while that country was still a part of Russia. At age five Rockmore was, and remains, the youngest person admitted to the St. Petersburg Conservatory, where the prodigy studied violin.
Before moving forward, let's make a detour to the office of Joseph Stalin, where another young prodigy of a different sort named Lev Termen was showing the dictator his most prized invention, a device which created sound without touch by manipulating magnetic fields, using the human body as a conductor. Stalin liked the instrument, and the young inventor's mind even more.
By the '20s Stalin had sent the young Termen to New York City to found a research lab and ostensibly conduct surveillance on the Americans, hiding in plain sight and demonstrating his "ether-wave" instrument to crowds at Carnegie Hall. Reisenberg was in the city as well, but the diminutive genius had been forced to abandon her instrument due to weakness in her arm thought to have been caused by childhood malnutrition.