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Forcefield [2007]

Force Field was a thirty-minute performance for MIDI Theremin and sound machines. Using a MIDI theremin and interacting with the instrument’s electro-magnetic ‘force field’ an orchestra of kinetic sound machines designed and built by Ray Lee were activated and controlled.

Force Field was described in publicity by Ray Lee as being ‘somewhere between a Victorian illusion, a performance of electronic music and a scientific demonstration…an exploration of invisible forces made tangible, audible and physical.’

Force Field won an Honorary Mention at the 2008 Prix Ars Electronica, Linz, Austria. Force Field was a realisation of the original premise for The Theremin Lesson.


An Ethervox MIDI Theremin was connected via a computer interface to a series of sixteen relays that allowed sixteen on/off operations. These were used to control the action of a series of sound machines. In Force Fielda group of sirens were activated, but also new machines were created, developed from Circles of Ether.A simple robot with two mechanical arms was used to play a Theremin. A sculpture with moving arms was used to play notes on a vintage electric organ. Other notes were activated by solenoids positioned above the keyboard. By playing a set of notes on the MIDI Theremin that corresponded with MIDI notes specific on/off switches could be activated. For example, by playing a middle C on the MIDI Theremin the pitch arm of the robot theremin player could be activated and so on.


Over the thirty minute performance a composition was developed that utilised the capabilities of each of the instruments. The performer began by ‘testing’ the operation of each of the instruments and the activation via the MIDI Theremin. This was done to effectively teach the audience about the relationship between the movement of the performer’s hand in front of the MIDI Theremin and then the subsequent action of a machine that might have been on the other side of the space. It was important for the audience to be able to make the connection between the MIDI Theremin and the control of the devices otherwise the performance could quickly have become incomprehensible.

Touring and restaging:

2007 - Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, UK

2008 - Science Gallery, Dublin. Co-presented with Kinetica Museum

  • Bishopsgate Institute, London. Co-presented with Kinetica Museum

Supported by:

Arts Council England, Oxford Brookes University, ICA.


Honorary Mention, Digital Music, Prix Ars Electronica 2008