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Machiko Machikado talks about the theremin, the world’s first electronic musical instrument



A circle of friends connected by gootouch! The “FIST BUMP” corner of the radio program “GRAND MARQUEE” features people who live and enjoy Tokyo in a relay format.

On June 21, theremin player Machiko Machikado appeared on the program, introduced by Asako Kikukawa, representative of the moms’ chorus theater “Utauhahaagokoro”. Machiko Machikado, who opened a theremin class “Theremin University” and has taught theremin to more than 1,000 people including workshops, was interviewed about how she first encountered the theremin, the charm of the theremin, and how to play the theremin.

After 3 years of taking theremin classes, she opened “Theremin University

Takano (MC): Should I call you Mr. Machikado?

Machikado: Some people call me Machio Machikado, so I am often called Machiko-san.

Takano: Then I will call you Machiko-san. Yesterday, Mr. Kikukawa said that you are a “beautiful weirdo.

Machikado: Yes, I received a gratifying catchphrase.

Takano: It’s a compliment, the best.

Celeina (MC): It’s perfect for this corner, isn’t it? First of all, I would like to ask you, what was your first encounter with the theremin instrument?

Machikado: In 2001, a documentary film about Mr. Theremin, the creator of the theremin, was released. At that time, the theremin appeared in various media and I learned about it.

Takano: And that’s when you decided you wanted to do it?

Machikado: My current teacher, Masami Takeuchi, released an album and gave a concert, which I went to see. I thought what a beautiful sound it had. The way he played was also very nice, and I made up my mind at that time that I would definitely be able to play this.

Celeina: I heard that you started to study theremin and opened a class called “Theremin University” in 2005.

Machikado: At that time, there were not many classes and there was a waiting list. I was lucky enough to be able to attend the class, but how could you open a class after learning for only three years from 2002? You must be wondering why I opened a class after learning for only three years since 2002. I did it on the spur of the moment, and I felt that supply and demand were not in balance, so I thought I would give it a try.

Takano: Are there many people who come to learn?

Machikado: Yes, there are.

Takano: What kind of people?

Machikado: They are not all that unusual, but many of them are very curious. Most of the men and women are in their 30s or older.

Takano: That’s right. I think there are some people who are listening and are curious about what theremin is in the first place. Today, we actually had a theremin brought into the studio.

Machikado: Yes, sir.

Takano: Thank you very much.

The world’s first electronic instrument created before synthesizers

Takano: Machiko, once again, what kind of instrument is the theremin?

Machikado: The theremin is the world’s first electronic musical instrument, and it is the original synthesizer. Synthesizers are played by pressing keys, but the theremin is played by hand in the air.

Takano: I’m surprised that it predates synthesizers!

Machikado: That’s right.

Celeina: What is happening in the air when you play instruments with your hands in the air?

Takano: Sound is being produced without touching it?

Machikado: The reason why sound is produced without touching is that there are radio waves emitted from the antenna of the theremin, which are invisible to the eye, and depending on the distance and area of the magnetic field between the radio waves and the hand, the pitch of the sound changes in response to the distance and area of the object approaching the antenna.

Celeina: That’s amazing! It’s like science.

Takano: Isn’t it amazing to have an instrument that you don’t touch? Now that you’ve brought it here, can we hear how it makes sounds?

Machikado: Let’s do it.

Takano: Thank you very much. It’s a rectangular, long, thin, black, wood-grained object with a silver antenna. Oh, here it comes!

Machikado: (while playing the theremin) When you put your hand close to it, the sound gets higher, and when you move it away, the sound gets lower.

Takano: Wow! I’m a bit moved! I have goosebumps. It sounds great. ……

Machikado: When the left hand antenna goes up, the sound gets louder, and when it goes down, the sound disappears just before you touch it. This way is the volume.

Takano: So you are adjusting the volume and scale with both hands?

Machikado: Yes, about five and a half octaves.

Takano: It sounds really good.

Challenging J-WAVE’s jingle and conversation with a theremin

Takano: I have a request. Can you do a J-WAVE jingle or something?

Machikado: Yes, I can.

Celeina: Amazing!

Takano: Couldn’t this be used for a jingle? Can we have a conversation or something?

Machikado: Conversation is surprisingly difficult (laughs).

Takano: Machiko, where are you from today?

Machikado: (answers with a theremin)

Takano: Kokubunji?

Machikado: Kokubunji, very close. Kichijoji.

Celeina: That’s great. The conversation goes surprisingly well (laughs).

Takano: I’d like you to teach me how to play a little …….

Machikado: Yes, please come this way. Please come this way.

Celeina: Mr. Takano is practicing now, so I would like to listen to Machiko’s piece in the meantime. Let’s hear “Stardust” by Machiko Machikaku.

Celeina: While we continue our conversation with Machiko, Takano, please take care of the background music with the theremin.

Takano: I’m already standing in front of the theremin all the time (laughs).

Celeina: Live background music, please (laughs). Now, Machiko, if people listen to this broadcast and want to learn the theremin, how do they actually, how do they act?

Machikado: First of all, if you search for “theremin class,” I offer theremin classes, and sometimes I also hold hands-on classes at different places, so if you would like to check out Machiko Machikado’s Instagram, etc.

Celeina: Thank you very much. Now, “FIST BUMP” is a circle of friends connected by goofy touch, so we are asking you to introduce us to your friends.

Machikado: This is Kevin Yang of Miachi Gallery, which opened this month in Nishi-Azabu.

Celeina: What is your relationship with him?

Machikado: There is a group called “A New Kind of Immigrations” organized by Masamichi Toyama of Soup Stock Tokyo, and we are friends through this group.

Celeina: How would you describe Kevin Yang in one word?

Machikado: Vitality that wanders.

Celeina: Interesting (laughs). Thank you very much. By the way, is thermin quite expensive?

Machikado: The theremin itself doesn’t sound, so you need an amplifier, but the main unit costs about 150,000 yen. It’s also available on Amazon.

Celeina: Mr. Takano, I think it’s a good idea.

Takano: (Answering with a theremin)

Celeina: “Mm-hmm”? (laughs) Thank you very much. Now, tomorrow I would like to connect with Kevin Yang of Miachi Gallery in Nishi-Azabu. Today we have a theremin player, Machiko Machikaku. Thank you very much.

Machikado: Thank you very much.


J-WAVE (81.3FM) Mon-Thu 16:00 – 18:50
Navigator: Shinya Takano, Celeina Ann



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