Missing footage of Theremin at Stanford found

Theremin demonstrating his instrument, Stanford University, 1991

Earlier this year, I reported on recent work the Archive of Recorded Sound (ARS) had undertaken to preserve video footage of Leon Theremin's visit to Stanford in 1991. In addition to participating in a symposium during his visit, hosted by the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA), Theremin was also the guest of honor at a concert held in Frost Amphitheater on September 27, 1991 during the Stanford Centennial Finale Weekend. The video footage preserved by the ARS earlier in the year unfortunately only included part of this notable concert. It was found to be missing some key performances, including an arrangement of Rachmaninov's Vocalise, featuring Theremin's daughter Natasha Theremin playing the vocal parts on her father's instrument, accompanied by Max Mathews conducting the orchestral parts with his radio batons. This footage was presumed lost...until now. 

Following discussions with John Chowning, Professor Emeritus at CCRMA and host of the 1991 concert, and Elizabeth Spencer, part of the film crew hired to capture Theremin's visit, Ms Spencer located a VHS in her possession simply labeled Theremin Weekend. Ms Spencer kindly donated this videocassette to the Archive of Recorded Sound. However, it was assumed by all parties that this was likely a copy of the footage the ARS had previously preserved. It was therefore with great excitement that, once digitized by the Stanford Media Preservation Lab, it was discovered that the videocassette contained the missing footage of the concert.  

Highlights of the concert, in addition to the aforementioned performance by Natasha Theremin (closely observed by her father as the new footage proves) and Max Matthews, include the presentation of the Stanford Centennial Medal to Professor Theremin, followed by a live demonstration of a Theremin by the inventor himself. Theremin first describes the instrument in Russian before moving into English. He ends the demonstration by performing a short extract of the melody from the popular song Moscow Nights. Video of this demonstration can be found here

More details about the concert can be found in this 1991 review of the event in the Computer Music Journal

Thanks go to Elizabeth Spencer for kindly donating this material to the ARS and in doing so completing the video documentation the Archive now holds of Theremin's visit. With all of the footage now digitized and added to the Stanford Digital Repository (SDR), this extremely important event in the history of electronic music at Stanford is now be preserved for generations to come.