Scott Burland | 17 OCT 2019
I’ve long been a fan of Carolina Eyck, first being exposed to her work at Moog Music’s Etherfest in 2008, a weekend of theremin concerts and workshops in Asheville, North Carolina. She had clearly mastered the theremin, having taken lessons from the age of seven from Lydia Kavina, who herself began studying at age nine from Leon Theremin (inventor of the instrument), the first cousin of her grandfather.
Eyck’s book, The Art of Playing the Theremin, was published in 2006, and offered fingering positions to articulate pitches on the instrument, which is played without being touched. She has collaborated with many musicians and orchestras and continues to record, tour and teach.
Her most recent recording, Elegies for Theremin & Voice, offers a mostly melancholy menu of only vocals and theremin. It’s often difficult to distinguish between her voice and what’s being played on the instrument, the timbres of each being so similar. It was recorded over a period of two years at producer Allen Farmelo’s studio in upstate New York.
The record is lightly peppered with two abstract pieces. “Presence,” for example, begins with a repeated staccato vocal line, soon with an addition of a theremin played in the lower register, overall rather ghostlike, it reminds me of, if not a nightmare, a disturbing dream. Similarly, “Absence” has a dreamlike quality and conveys a sense of loss, finishing with plaintive vocals and legato bass theremin tones.
In contrast, both “Uncle” and “Friend” are lovely, and combine harmonic consistence with a more traditional compositional style. Based on the titles, my first impression was that these pieces were more personal and later learned that this digital LP is dedicated to her friend Wiebke and her uncle Mercin. Haunting and mournful, these two carry the emotional weight of the record.
“Solo I” (theremin) and “Solo II” (vocal) are short pieces, hymnal in nature. “Solo II” ends the records on a brief, positive note.
Both “Remembrance” and “Commemoration” are more upbeat and affirmatory and are fleshed out to a greater extent, seemingly more composed than the other tracks. Her vocals and theremin playing on these tracks is stellar both in the upper and lower registers.
Elegies for Theremin & Voice is comprised of lyrical, thoughtful theremin playing and voice throughout and is a fine addition to her already impressive body of work.
Eyck is touring this fall in support of this release, with a limited number of dates in the United States through November 9th, followed by performances in Germany, Austria, England and Malta. It’s a great opportunity to hear this one-hundred year old instrument played by a peerless performer. ■
Reviewer Scott Burland is a thereminist and member of Atlanta-based Duet for Theremin and Lap Steel.