30 July, 2013

A Poem About a Semi-Obscure Musical Instrument


Black and white and ill-defined
Against the holey backdrop of night,
Something wicked this way comes, heralded by
Ethereal, bone-chilling whine:
Fangs, tentacles of rubber,
Sparking papier-mâché rockets,
Pie tins teetering through space,
Wires visible against the cardboard cosmos.
For each, that uncanny woooo.
Filmmakers of the Ed Wood school knew full well
That sax and violins would never do
For invoking moon-men, plants with teeth,
The loup-garou, salivating for human prey. Oh
No. Only a stringless electronic marvel
This weird and difficult to master, played
Loose by hands strumming the ether
Could unsettle us thus, pierce
The protoplasmic wall and bridge
The grainy unreal grayscale rift.
Relegated to midnight screenings and
General obscurity now, in this digital
HD age, and all but unheard:
The theremin, sonic planchette. 

 * * * * * 

For those of you not in the know, the theremin (named for its Russian inventor, Lev Theremin) is an electronic musical instrument on which the tone is generated by two high-frequency oscillators and the pitch is controlled by the movement of one’s hand, through the air, toward and away from the circuit. Anyone who’s watched black-and-white sci-fi movies from the 1950s will instantly recognize its sound. 

I wrote the above poem, “Theremin,” for a publication seeking science fiction poetry, but the piece turned out not to be quite science fiction-y enough for the editor’s tastes. Still, I think it’s worth sharing. There have got to be theremin fans out there who’ll appreciate this simple paean to a largely forgotten instrument, and vintage sci-fi nuts who wish the theremin would hurry up and make its comeback.


  1. For those about to go "rrreeror-rrreeeror": In the Kansas City area, check out the wild band Mr. Marco's V7 for tasty theremin jazz-rock.

    Oh. Have you seen the 1003 documentary "Theremin - An Electronic Odyssey"? It features Todd Rundgren. (Yea Todd!)

  2. Cool poetic evocation of old Sci-Fi soundtracks, Mr. Case. I like that you employed semi-obscure instrument. The curious will seek the meaning at least, of "loup-garou," but I had a hazy recollection that a planchette is one of those Quija Board pointer things, so hooray for me being smart.

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