Thursday, December 01, 2005


There are a lot of creative people out there. Case in point: Altoid's "Tin Million Uses" contest where contestants compete for the title of the most creative use of an Altoid's tin as something other than an Altoid's tin. The winner (Jon Lennon!) made a Theremin out of an Altoid. Well, close anyway.

Altoid's website is correct in saying that Lennon made a light-based theremin, an instrument whose pitch is determined by the amount of light it detects.'s article about Lennon's creation misses the crucial "light-based" modifier and instead asserts that a theremin is an instrument whose pitch is determined by light.


Let's get a real theremin in here.

There we go. A theremin (wikiwiki!) is an instrument invented by Léon Theremin that accepts two types of inputs: the right hand (typically) controls the pitch by moving up or down and the left hand controls volume by moving closer and farther away from the second loopy antenna. It's not used very often and theremin masters are few (if any) and far in between. What Lennon has created, then, is an instrument that is somewhat like a theremin in that it is an electronic device that produces a pitch based on an external input. Then again, the same can be said of a turntable or an electronic keyboard. The similarities are easy to see but a light-based theremin is not equal to's assertion that a theremin is an instrument that is based on light. Poor Leon isn't very famous anyway so the least we could do is to not reduce his instrument down to an Altoid tin and get its parameters wrong. Besides, his instrument had pitch and volume, with vibrato and tremolo possiblities using smaller finger gestures.

Yeah I'm a nitpicky music nerd and I'm bitching about Kudos to Lennon for winning the Tin Millions contest with a musical device though.

PS You know the original Star Trek theme? That's a theremin. (And Hellboy used it too!!!...???)

No comments: