The Claravox Centennial attempts to pay tribute to the Theremin’s origins, while also bringing it headlong into the present. There are two completely separate sound engines inside: one built around traditional heterodyne oscillators — just like the original. The other, is a digital oscillator with four selectable modes: sine, triangle, saw and wavetable. And an on-board analog BBD (bucket brigade) delay adds warmth and depth.
The Claravox Centennial even plays nice with other instruments, both new and old. There’s practically every connectivity option you could think onboard. There’s five-pin MIDI DIN, USB, plus CV in and outs for controlling modular gear.
A traditional Theremin is also notoriously difficult to play, and even harder to master. After all, you play it by waving your hands in the air. There’s no physical point of reference for you to feel like the frets of a guitar or the keys of a piano. So, while you can play the Claravox the old fashioned way, there are deep controls for pitch quantization and even scale quantization so that even beginners can stay in tune.
Of course, at $1,499 the Claravox is not priced for beginners. In addition to the high-end electronics inside, this thing is made from some high grade materials on the outside too. The cabinet is made of solid walnut and the antennae are brass.
This is a statement piece — A limited edition tribute to the origins of electronic music, but also to Clara Rockmore, one of the most skilled and famous thereminists to ever live. She also had a profound influence on the evolution of the instrument through her close relationship with Leon Theremin.
While others leaned into the Theremin’s strange and creepy qualities, Rockmore crafted beautiful music and played classical compositions. Her efforts helped elevate it from technological curiosity to serious musical instrument. She even played alongside world-renowned orchestras that forced critics to take the Theremin and experimental electronic music seriously.
The Claravox Centennial is available to preorder now for $1,499 and is expected to ship in December. But, even if you don’t plan on buying one, it’s worth diving into the history of the Theremin, Leon Theremin himself and Clara Rockmore. (I highly recommend the documentary Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey, if you can find it.) There’s espionage, a possible kidnapping by the KGB and, of course, without the Theremin, there may never have been a Moog synthesizer. And electronic music just wouldn’t be the same.