In unskilled hands, traditional Theremins can sound a bit like a cat being used as a set of bagpipes (don't ask).
I don't think I know an engineer who isn’t intrigued by the Theremin. Actually, I'd be very interested to know the ratio of electronic engineers who have / have-not built at least one of these little rascals in their time. I know I have, but it was cheap-and-cheesy and I've never been invited to play it a second time (said Max, sadly).
A couple of years ago I was introduced to the Theremini, which is uber-cool, but whose $299 price tag was somewhat off-putting. More recently, my chum Duane Benson started to experiment with a rather tasty Arduino-based Theremin. Duane was kind enough to send me a full kit of my very own. Sad to relate, however, I haven’t had a moment spare to get this little scamp working, but now (as a by-product of writing this column) it's returned to the top of my metaphorical pile of things to do.
The reason I'm waffling on about this here -- in addition to the fact that waffling is what I do best -- is that another chum, Jay Dowling, just pointed me at a rather interesting Gecho Loopsynth KickStarter Project.
As you can see in this video and this video, the Gecho Loopsynth might well qualify for the role of "Theremin for the 21st Century."
Created by Mario Ilecko in Dublin, Ireland, and based on a 32-bit ARM Cortex-M4 microprocessor, the Gecho Loopsynth doesn’t have any knobs or a real keyboard; instead, it boasts a variety of magnetic, infrared, and four touchless proximity sensors, all augmented by two sensitive microphones. This little beauty also boasts 29 embedded LEDs that blink along with the generated music and/or indicate sensor activity. (As I always say: "Show me a blinking LED, and I'll show you a man drooling.")
One of the things a lot of people don’t like about traditional Theremins is that, in unskilled hands, they can sound a bit like a cat being used as a set of bagpipes (don’t ask). As an aside, I'm personally tempted by the haunting tones and timbres of the electronic bagpipes, but they can be jolly expensive, and playing any form of bagpipes is unlikely to make you any friends (see also my column Can you beat these bagpipe jokes?), but we digress...
The Gecho Loopsynth addresses this by taking stimulus in the form of your caterwauling singing, whistling, tapping, etc. and sending the resulting data through a group of variable-resonant filters, resulting in pleasing chord progressions.
As you already know, I'm a week-willed man. I couldn’t help myself. I just pledged to the Kickstarter for my very own Gecho Loopsynth. I'm thinking that this will make an interesting addition to my Bodacious Brain project, providing an audible accompaniment to any stimulus coming from my own sensors and also providing primary stimulus into the brain. How about you -- are you tempted?