Conductor Cindy Chinn and her Eatth Tones Theremin

Who knows where these kinds of things come from… Grandpa’s Attic? Is it a relic from some lost Music Society? or is it the make shift communication device of an Alien Traveler… We my never know the true origin of the Earth Tones Device. We can be certain however, that it has a secret language of it’s own and that a special bond between the Earth and the Conductor grows stronger with every tone.  This Theremin is for sale!

View the video below to see “Earth Tones” communicate with the outside world during its world premiere in the art center of Chester Nebraska.

“Earth Tones” is an interactive art installation created by Cindy Chinn.  By re-purposing a number of items from a school globe to a vintage radio console, a theremin was constructed.

The video above shows the ‘conductor’ exploring tones in front of a live audience in Chester Nebraska.

Here are some images that show “Earth Tones” in more detail as well as some photos of guests with the device.

Behind the Magic

Theremin [ther-uh-min] noun
1. a musical instrument with electronic tone generation, the pitch and tone volume being controlled by the distance between the player’s hands and two metal rods serving as antennas.

This project began when I wanted to create an interactive art project.  During this time I also started playing with a Bare Conductive Development Board which would allow me to use paint to create a conductive surface.

I started playing around with sample programs and hooked up some mason jar lids to see how the touch and proximity sensors worked.  Once I had that figured out and came across the code for a theremin, I knew what I had to build…

A theremin for sale?  Yes!  Right here!

Being an artist, I couldn’t just build a simple theremin with two rods, I needed to make something unique and visually exciting.  I started with an old globe and painted the continents with conductive paint.  One hemisphere controls the volume, the other controls the pitch.

I took two wooden modeling hands and made them controllers as well.  These control the instrument selection.  By touching the hands you can cycle through the 80 midi instruments included in the program.

All of this is constructed around a vintage radio cabinet that I gutted.  It’s now lighter and has room for the modern electronics.  I am using the original speaker that is still in the cabinet and an old amplifier that I found, to power it.

On top of the cabinet is an old inkwell that serves as the on/off switch, headphone/speaker button and headphone jack.  The front of the cabinet has a brass hook for the headphones.

The best part about this project was that I was able to use a variety of my skills to put together something truly unique.

Programming Credits

Theremin program written by Nathan Tomlin (nathan.a.tomlin@gmail.com) with tons of code stolen from Bare Conductive “Midi_Piano.ino”

Theremin Control Plaque
Click for larger

A theremin for sale?  Yes!  Right here! Contact me today!

Earth Tones Theremin for sale
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2 thoughts on “Earth Tones Theremin for sale

  • December 19, 2015 at 12:21 pm

    I am completely blown away by your incredible gifts! How amazingly talented and imaginative you are! The Theramin all by itself is a wonderful display of the wide range of your skills, and your mastery of them. Right now I’m trying to think of something relevant to someone I love so that I can get on your schedule and begin saving up for it. I’m going to be following your work with fascination! I’m sure you won’t disappoint.

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