Russian Matryoshka Nesting Dolls Hide Classic Electronic Secret
There's something a little mysterious about Matryoshka dolls. Perhaps because it lets one glimpse the infinite by pulling open diminishing sizes of matronly-figured ladies in Russian folk dress? Or what about the political ramifications of those novelty sets of Matryoshka dolls painted as Russian leaders, usually with Lenin as the itty-bitty baby all the way in the middle? When you pull a Matryoshka apart, you pretty much know what to expect - a smaller version of the outer doll. So how surprised would you be to pull one of those wooden dolls apart to find a high quality five octave theremin?
The theremin is no stranger to Retro Thing. It's the first electronic instrument ever invented, and the first instrument that one played without touching it. It's history is fascinating, and recent years have seen a revival of the spacey and spooky instrument. Low cost kits have become many people's first foray into electronics, and then there's always the fun of stuffing the theremin into some sort of unexpected enclosure.
It would be easy to dismiss this Matryoshka theremin as such a stunt project, but the theremin inside can reach five octaves – more than most low priced theremins on the market. I found a YouTube video of a large ensemble performing a spooky rendition of “Dark Eyes” with a whole fleet of the unusual instruments. Even with YouTube's limited fidelity, it sounds like the doll's built in speaker is capable of some impressive lows. The “Matryomin” only senses pitch changes, there doesn't appear to be any volume control – which is just as well since the speaker is at the bottom of the doll. You have to hold the instrument in your free hand.
One thing I find disappointing is that the Matryomin doesn't come in a Matryoshka doll itself. They should have built the theremin into the second largest Matryoshka they could find, so the largest could act as the instrument's case. Seems like an obvious omission, doesn't it?
Unfortunately this novelty and quality comes at a cost, the Matryomin is quite expensive. I've linked to the auctions I could find on Ebay, but I couldn't find any especially good deals. If you're a gigging theremin artist, perhaps it's worth the extra scratch to stand out among that vast sea of professional thereminists... um... “Thereminians”? “Theremites”?