Play Theremin's Rhythmicon with Bounce Metronome Pro

Bounce Metronome Feature:
Pro Version Only

Youtube Video

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

What is it?

Theremin's rhythmicon uses polyrhythms with pitches from the harmonic series. The beats tempi are in the same relationships as the pitch frequencies.  It's based on work by the composers Charles Seeger and Henry Cowell.

What can you do?.

By pressing keys on your PC keyboard you can silence or play any of the sixteen rhythms of the theremin. In this way you can build up intricate rhythms with up to 16 parts. They are always harmonious no matter what you do as they use pitches from the harmonic series.

It's not a drum machine really in the modern sense. You can't play any rhythm you like, just these polyrhythms. But an intriguing invention to explore.


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Where do I find it in Bounce Metronome:

Pick ‘Theremin's Rhythmicon (Harmonic Polyrhythms)’  from the drop-down list in the main window

Do you want to see more of these? See Approaching the Golden Ratio with the Fibonacci Sequence (video gallery). Also, gallery of all the videos on this page Theremin's Rhythmicon Videos.

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Youtube Video

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

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Instead of the harmonics ("major flavour chords") of the original design, you can try out subharmonics ("minor flavour" chords)

Or you can assign any harmonic you like to any of the parts individually.

Also instead of a steady beat in each part of the original design, you can try rhythmic patterns in each part. Comes with a preset which alternates long and short beats in each part. Also comes with the Fibonacci Rhythms, a highly structured rhythm without any exact measure beat repeats

Then you have the lovely "Sound of Pendulum Waves" - generalises Theremin's rhythmicon and adds sound to the lovely Pendulum Waves.

Where do I find it in Bounce Metronome:

Look for Theremin's Rhythmicon in the main window drop list. Then for these features look in the main window, and for the sonified pendulum waves and the fibonacci rhythms see its Rhythms drop menu.


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The original invention

Theremin's rhythmicon plays interesting and harmonious polyrhyhmic pitched rhythms. The original invention is probably the first ever drum machine. It was invented by Léon Theremin as a commission for the composer Henry Cowell. Each key plays a number of beats per measure and a pitch in the harmonic series. These combine to make the pitched rhythms, which change as you press and release the keys.

It is an astonishing invention for its time (between the two World Wars at the dawn of electronics, in 1931). To find out more about the original invention see Rhythmicon (Wikipedia).

Harmonics in the original invention

In this instrument the first key plays 1 beat to the bar, then it's 2 beats per measure for the second key all the way to 16 beats per measure for the last key.

Here is a demo of one of his original Rhythmicons:

Youtube Video

Rhythmicon Demonstration

The notes always sound harmoniously together as each rhythm is played on a different note in the harmonic series. Notes of the harmonic series sound good together (on most instruments, anything with a "harmonic timbre").

So anything you play on this instrument sounds harmonious

Actually it uses some rather exotic harmonies (especially the 11th and 13th harmonics) which you rarely encounter in music - but because they are played as part of the harmonic series then they work well with each other and to most ears they probably don't sound that exotic on the Theremin.

How it is implemented in Bounce Metronome Pro

With the Bounce Metronome Pro version you use the number keys on your keyboard, 1 to 0, then the first five keys on the second row.

The keys "toggle" the parts on and off, so you don't need to keep the keys held down for long periods of time. In this way you can easily play all 16 keys simultaneously (which would require two players for the original Rhythmicon).

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Who is it for?

Of particular interest to these musicians: Enthusiasts for Theremin's Rhythmicon. Anyone interested in exploring these intriguing rhythms. Music therapists (because of the pure harmonies it uses).

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