Albert Glinsky: termen-ology

Albert Glinsky: termen-ology
Albert Glinsky: termen-ology


From the CIA to a Rave Festival in Spain...


Interdisciplinary symposia
exploring the life, times, and work
of Leon Theremin

TERMEN-OLOGYTM has been presented by universities and institutions across the world. It is the creation of Dr. Albert Glinsky, author of the award winning book, Theremin: Ether Music and Espionage. TERMEN-OLOGYTM explores the life, times, and work of Lev Termen, better known under his Gallicized name of Leon Theremin. Leon Theremin (1896-1993) remains one of the most bizarrely fascinating personalities of the 20th century--an inventor, musician, and spy whose life intersected  every decisive moment of the 20th century from the Russian Revolution to the Great Depression, from WWI through Perestroika. Each TERMEN-OLOGYTM presentation is customized to suit the interests of  the presenting organization, so that no two are ever alike. It is particularly useful for universities seeking interdisciplinary projects, as many different departments can collaborate in studying Theremin, each from their own angle. Dr. Glinsky's presentations and activities range from a single lecture to a one-week festival, including films, exhibits, demonstrations, and hands-on workshops.  

TERMEN-OLOGY integrates any or all of the following fields:

• music (electronic, contemporary, movie, classical)
• dance
• ethics
• political science
• economics
• physics
• engineering
• history
• espionage
• Radio, TV, and film history


Leon Theremin is best known as the inventor of the strangest musical instrument ever: the theremin. It is the only musical instrument that is played by never actually touching it. Instead, the perfomer waves his or her hands in the electro-magnetic fields of its two antennae. The sight of a performer hovering around a theremin managed to fascinate and spook audiences in the 1930s and this spectacle has never lost its appeal. Today there are theremin societies and concerts, and the instrument is still being manufactured. It has been called the granddaddy of all electronic musical instruments and the direct antecedent of today's synthesizers.

Theremin lived just shy of 100 years, during which time he experienced first-hand, Imperial Russia, World War I, the Russian Revolution, the Great Depression, World War II, the gulags, the Cold War era, and Perestroika. Theremin's improbable story careens from high society in New York to the desperation of a Soviet gulag. His work intersected the history of radio and television, American politics and race relations, music, the advent of communism, Stalin's purges, the rise of the KGB, 1950s American culture, sci-fi movies, and the birth of electronic music and synthesizers, to name just a few areas. Leon Theremin was a visionary who predicted virtual reality and the internet decades before they came into being.

Leon Theremin's life started out with great promise as his musical instrument earned the admiration of Lenin. He was sent on official tours across Russia, Europe, and the United States, and eventually settled in New York City for 11 years. He performed concerts at Carnegie Hall and the Metropolitan Opera House and signed a lucrative deal with RCA to mass produce his theremin, a revolutionary instrument many predicted would change the course of music forever. While living in New York he led a double life, playing concerts and socializing with the moneyed elite, while at the same time, carrying out industrial espionage missions for his Soviet supervisors. His life was filled with glamour and prestige, but his fortunes soon changed. His interracial marriage to a black ballet dancer--a member of the pioneering dance company, The First American Negro Ballet--shocked his socialite friends. Visa and tax evasion problems mounted, and with his business going under, he took the desperate step of fleeing back to his homeland. Returning to the Soviet Union during the height of the Stalinist purges turned out to be a mistake from which he never recovered. Theremin ended up in a Siberian labor camp where he almost died. The Soviet government rescued him only to imprison him in a top-secret facility for scientists, where his genius was plundered in the service of the state. He was made to work on nefarious projects, developing surveillance and war equipment. But even with these constraints, Leon Theremin managed to keep his flair for invention. Using technology similar to that of his musical instrument, he designed bugging devices so sophisticated that they eavesdropped on U.S. diplomatic offices for 7 years without being detected. When finally discovered, Theremin's astonishing equipment ended up at the center of a pivotal cold war confrontation, climaxing in Krushchev's famous shoe-banging outburst at the United Nations.

Throughout his life Theremin developed other dazzling electronic projects, including one of the earliest working televisions, and multimedia art devices that anticipated virtual reality by decades. Though he ended his life in poverty and obscurity he is now recognized for his achievements in technology, for the historical span of his lifetime, and, of course, for his singular musical instrument. The study of Leon Theremin takes in everything from Alcatraz to Macy's store windows, and zig-zags from The Beach Boys to the United Nations, from Joseph Stalin to Shirley Temple, from the gulags of Siberia to the inanities of a Jerry Lewis film.

To host TERMEN-OLOGY TM, contact Dr. Albert Glinsky: PHONE: 814.824.2361. E-mail:  Albert Glinsky is also a composer whose music has been performed worldwide, and a professor of music who has written extensively and taught for many years. His book, Theremin: Ether Music and Espionage is the winner of the prestigious ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award. He is a Research Fellow and Professor of Music at the D'Angelo Dept. of Music at Mercyhurst University in Pennsylvania.

TERMEN-OLOGY Gallery: Presentations from across the U.S. and abroad

Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada

Ether Wave 2005 Festival, Asheville, NC

Pittsburgh Symphony

albert glinsky in spain
San Martin de Valdeiglesias, Spain

University of Toronto


State University of New York at Fredonia

albert glinsky termen-ology
Santa Ana, California

glinsky termen-ologyalbert glinsky
Edinboro University of Pennsylvania

SUNY Fredonia

Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts, Katonah, NY

Masonic Temple (Erie, PA)

To host a TERMEN-OLOGY TM presentation, contact Dr. Albert Glinsky: PHONE: 814.824.2361; e-mail: