Happy birthday to electronic music pioneer Clara Rockmore

March 09, 2016
Today's Google Doodle honoring Clara Rockmore

On this day in 1911, electronic music pioneer Clara Rockmore was born. Her birthday has been commemorated with a Google Doodle, which offers an interactive lesson on playing the theremin (using your mouse to hover over pitches and play a melody).

From a very early age, it was clear that Rockmore was musically gifted. By age two, she already had perfect pitch and could pick out melodies on the piano. She was on her way to a promising career as a violinist, but developed debilitating arthritis in her bowing arm as a teenager. Not long after that, she met Léon Theremin, and switched to the theremin as her primary instrument — and eventually becoming its most prominent and respected performer.

"I was fascinated by the aesthetic part of it, the visual beauty, the idea of playing in the air," Clara recalled in an interview, "and I loved the sound. I tried it, and apparently showed some kind of immediate ability to manipulate it. Soon Lev Sergeyevich gave me, for a present, the RCA model theremin."

Here is Rockmore performing "The Swan" from The Carnival of Animals by Camille Saint-Saëns.