The Story Behind Wednesday's Odd Google Doodle

Clara Rockmore is the coolest electronic musician you've never heard of
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 9, 2016 3:01 PM CST
The Story Behind Wednesday's Odd Google Doodle
Clara Rockmore, an important figure in the history of electronic music, plays a theremin in Wednesday's Google Doodle.   (Screenshot)

Not only is Wednesday's Google Doodle a lot of fun, it commemorates an important figure in music history you've probably never heard of. Musical wunderkind Clara Rockmore was accepted into the St. Petersburg Imperial Conservatory in Russia at the age of 4—its youngest violinist ever, the Telegraph reports. But she made her mark on music when she moved to the US in 1921 and took up the theremin, according to Vox. Search Engine Land reports playing the violin had become too hard on Rockmore physically (she had developed arthritis), but the recently invented theremin required no physical contact to play. Instead, players use their hands to manipulate a magnetic field created by the instrument's two antennas.

"I was fascinated by the aesthetic part of it, the visual beauty, the idea of playing in the air," Rockmore is quoted on her foundation's website. She was a major force in popularizing the theremin—the world's first electronic instrument—playing as a soloist for the New York Philharmonic and others. She also helped Léon Theremin refine and improve his invention. As Vox puts it, Rockmore "was the Skrillex of her day." The theremin inspired bands like the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and the Beach Boys and led to the creation of the modern synthesizer. Wednesday's Google Doodle is not only a history lesson, it's a playable theremin. It took a dozen Google employees to create and mimics the sound and look of theremins from Rockmore's era. The Doodle celebrates what would have been Rockmore's 105th birthday; she died in 1998. (More Google Doodle stories.)

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