The Theremin Vignettes by Jessi Stegall is an Ode to Thereminist Clara Rockmore and Her Beautifully Bizarre Music
The Theremin Vignettes by Jessi Stegall is an evening-length dance-theatre production set to and inspired by the music and life of thereminist Clara Rockmore. Through a series of choreographic vignettes, Jessi builds upon the legacy of Clara by exploring themes of grief, remembrance, and devotion. Each scene is set to one of Rockmore’s arrangements of classical scores for theremin, often accompanied by her sister, pianist Nadia Residenberg. In true ode fashion, Jessi Stegall has fostered a connection with the family of Clara Rockmore through the Nadia Reisenberg/Clara Rockmore Foundation, which has developed into a wonderful collaboration.
A deeply thoughtful and research-based artist, Jessi Stegall has spent her time in residence at Boston Center for the Arts (BCA) expanding her cast of collaborators, further exploring the arrangements of Clara, and creating lush movement vocabulary for her first evening-length work. Jessi’s The Theremin Vignettes gives credit where credit is due. While being recognized as the best theremin player to have ever lived, Clara Rockmore, a Lithuanian-Jewish woman and music virtuoso, remains under-appreciated for her immense contribution to electronic music.
Clara Rockmore (1911–1998) holds a unique place in music history as the star performer of the theremin. The only instrument to be played without physical contact, this unusual instrument produces a warbly tone made from thin air. A thereminist uses very small, precise finger and hand movements to manipulate an electromagnetic field around two antennae, resulting in a warbly tone made resembling the human voice. Clara’s arrangements of classical works for theremin elevated it above novelty status, bringing precision and composition to an instrument that was otherwise used to create stilted sound effects for science fiction films.
The Theremin Vignettes by Jessi Stegall will have audiences walking away with gratitude for the bizarre and a new favorite music genre.
“The Theremin Vignettes is first and foremost an ode to Clara: a Lithuanian- Jewish woman, virtuosa and pioneer of electronic music, loving wife, sister, aunt, and friend. Her life, like her music, was rich with stories of love, loss, resilience, and wonder. It is my honor to interpret her stories, both real and imaginary, through this movement. This project aims to meet two goals: 1) enhance audience literacy around the theremin and Clara’s unique contribution to the form, and 2) pay homage to Clara by infusing this piece with themes found throughout her life, sparking interest and curiosity in audiences to not only learn more about Rockmore, but to actively seek out information about forgotten women in history,” shares Stegall.
Live performances of The Theremin Vignettes will take place May 25-28 at the Calderwood Pavilion at BCA. A free virtual performance will be available on June 2 – you will have access to the performance for seven days.
Tickets to the live performances are $25 and may be purchased here