Clara Rockmore (born Clara Reisenberg, Vilnius, Lithuania, March 9, 1911; d. New York City, May 10, 1998) is generally considered to be the greatest player of the theremin electronic musical instrument since its invention and was without peer in the early decades of its use. While many listeners familiar with the theremin have heard it used mostly as a spooky special-effects device, Rockmore, a classically-trained musician, used it to perform classical works. Under her control, the theremin sounded like a blend of the violin and the human voice.
Rockmore had a number of gifts that enabled her to play the Theremin so well. She had active perfect pitch, critical to playing an instrument that can generate tones of any frequency. She was a child prodigy as a violinist, but was unable to play it past her teen years, because of bone problems due to childhood malnutrition in her native Russia. She had extremely precise and rapid control of her movements, an absolute requirement for playing an instrument that depends on motion and proximity, rather than touch. One final advantage is that she worked with Léon Theremin directly from the early days of the instrument's development. Indeed, a number of refinements of the early instruments were due to her input or were on her behalf.
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