The World of Electronic Musical Instuments

Marc Helfman
Marc Helfman

For our May session we welcome back our old friend Marc Helfman who will present an unusual topic complete with live musical examples. Most of us are familiar with such acoustic instruments as the flute, trumpet, and violin which make their sound by blowing into them or drawing a bow across a string. But around a hundred years ago, a new way of making music appeared on the scene and that is the topic of my presentation: the world of electronic musical instruments. We’ll take a look at some of the early attempts such as the Theremin. Hammond Organ, and Moog Synthesizer, and work our way up to the invention of MIDI, the modern electronic keyboard and the instrument Marc has been playing for the past few years, the Electronic Wind Instrument or EWI. This brief history will be followed by a description and demo of some of the features of his EWI, the various acoustic and synthesized sounds it can make as well as a look at the advantages and disadvantages of an instrument like this. One such advantage is that you aren’t limited to getting the sound of just one instrument. This will be demonstrated as he plays selections from Bach on the cello, Mozart on the bassoon, and Saint-Saens on the tuba as his wife Jean accompanies him on the piano. We’ll save plenty of time after our performance for questions and answers from the audience.

Since 1960 Marc Helfman first took up the clarinet and got his ham radio license. Marc has maintained an interest in both ever since, working in the computer and electronics field for many years and playing the clarinet in various amateur groups. His last job before retiring was teaching a class on robotics at Santa Rosa Junior College and he’s currently a member of the Upbeat Trio and the SRJC Symphonic Band where he plays bassoon on his EWI.

Jean Wong is a pianist and member of the Upbeat Trio and Twenty Fingers Club and has performed at the Vintage House Singers, Sonoma Theater Alliance, and Oakmont Symposium. . She is also an award-winning author writing fiction, memoir, poetry. Her work has been produced at Sixth Street Playhouse, Petaluma Reader’s Theater, Off the Page, and Lucky Penny Productions. She is the author of Sleeping with the Gods, and Hurtling Jade and Other Tales of Personal Folly. One of her poems has been set to music by composer Georg Hajdu and is currently performed internationally.


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