Theremin's Harmonic Rhythmicon

Youtube Video

Version of Theremin's rhythmicon, all notes playing
with stereo pan following the bouncing balls

Sometimes called the first ever "drum machine" (though not really one in the modern sense), Theremin's rhythmicon combines polyrhythms with pitches from the harmonic series. It's based on ideas and work by the composers Charles Seeger and Henry Cowell.

The beats tempi are in the same relationships as the pitch frequencies, so e.g. the pitch at 2/1 (double the 1/1/ frequency) plays beats at double the tempo of the 1/1, the 3/1 plays at three times its tempo and so on.

So everything played on this instrument sounds harmonious. 

See also the golden rhythmicon clips in Approaching the Golden Ratio with the Fibonacci Sequence.

Youtube Video

Demo of some of the capabilities of the Rhythmicon in Bounce Metronome Pro

Youtube Video

Rhythmicon Demonstration - Theremin's original machine

Play all these videos one after another

Use these videos as a resource

You can use any of these videos as a resource for your own website or wikis, or make more of them yourself - see Add videos like these to your own site

Play the harmonic rhythmicon in Bounce Metronome

You can use Bounce Metronome Pro to play the harmonic rhythmicon shown in these clips. To find out more see Play Theremin's Rhythmicon with Bounce Metronome Pro.


Wikipedia articles: RhythmiconLéon Theremin, and Henry Cowell

Turning Pitch into Rhythm - Henry Cowell and the Evolution of the Rhythmicon by Greg Dixon - Henry Cowell on his invention

Composition using the Rhythmicon

The Computer Polyrhythmicon - a compositional instrument / tool box for polyrhythmic development for Max Objects by Matthew Burtner

The Computer Polyrhythmicon web site includes Example compositions using the computer rhythmicon and a RESOURCES page with many more links

David Mooney - composition with a virtual Rhythmicon in the Kyma system