Museum of Modern Art
Experimental Sound Laboratory at MOMus-Museum of Modern Art-Costakis Collection led by Andrey Smirnov
March 7, 2024 - March 28, 2024

Lectures circle “The Sound Machines of Avant-Garde”


The radical inventions of the 1920s-1930s by Soviet inventors such as Leon Theremin (1896-1993), the inventor of the first commercially produced electronic musical instrument, and more, are the core of the new four-lecture seminar series under the title “The Sound Machines of Avant-Garde”, with which the Experimental Sound Laboratory continues its operation at MOMus-Museum of Modern Art-Costakis Collection in Thessaloniki, led by Andrey Smirnov. The lectures take place on 07, 14, 21 & 28 March 2024, in English. 

Find below information on bookings and tuition fees. 


The programme in detail 

1. “The Sound Machines of Avant-Garde. Introduction”

Thursday 07 March 2024 | 18:00-20:00

While the 20th Century is one of the most over-documented in the history of the world, yet it seems, the history of experimental and electronic sound and music, and the impact that it has had on our culture, is largely unknown even by authoritative scholars. The lecture series gives an overview of some of the most important and radical inventions, made in the 1920-30-s by Soviet inventors and beyond. Many inventors patented new sound machines intended specially for performance of the noise music. Some devices based on electro-optical, electro-mechanical and newest electronic technologies were ahead of their time by decades. 

Perhaps one of the most charismatic figures in the history of electronic music and audio technology was Leon Theremin (1896-1993), well known as the inventor of the first commercially produced electronic musical instrument, the Theremin, which one could play without even touching it. The first three lectures will give an overview of the key inventions made by Leon Theremin as well as their most significant consequences. 


2. “Leon Theremin: Music and Gesture”

Thursday 14 March 2024 | 18:00-20:00

Perhaps one of the most charismatic figures in the history of electronic music and audio technology was Leon Theremin, inventor of the world's first electronic musical instruments, the theremin. It was the only instrument that could be played without touching it by moving the hands in the electromagnetic field of special antennae. In 1923, Leon Theremin created a special device called Illumovox, which worked under the control of a theremin and made it possible to change the color of the light beam, thus linking the performer's plasticity, pitch and color. The other Theremin’s invention was the Terpsitone - the world’s first motion-tracking system built by Leon Theremin in the US in 1931. Instead of an antenna for the hand it uses an antenna-platform for the whole body. Dancers’ movements are converted into corresponding tones —moving an arm or a leg is sufficient to produce a noticeable change of tone. Though it was never mass produced, the Terpsitone has been successfully used in the 1930-s in the US by a group of dancers, collaborating with Leon Theremin. 


3. “The Rhythmicon: Optical Synthesis and Electrification of Rhythm”

Thursday 21 March 2024 | 18:00-20:00

The story of the Rhythmicon -the world’s first rhythm machine, developed in the US in 1931 by the Russian inventor Leon Theremin and American composer Henry Cowell. The project was financially supported by Charles Ives and realized in collaboration with Ukraine born composer and theorist Joseph Schillinger. Henry Cowell wrote a number of compositions for it, including Rhythmicana (Concerto for Rhythmicon and Orchestra (1931)) and Music for Violin and Rhythmicon (1932). Though it was never mass produced, the Rhythmicon is widely acknowledged as the world’s first device –able to play polyrhythms in loops. Joseph Schillinger calculated that it would take 455 days, 2 hours and 30 minutes to play all the rhythm combinations available on the Rhythmicon, assuming an average duration of ten seconds for each combination. Today, its uniqueness and rarity continue to hold a fascination for musicians across the world. One of two survived machines will be presented to the audience.


4. “Eavesdropping the Universe: Hacking as an artistic method”

Thursday 28 March 2024 | 18:00-20:00

Experimental music and sonification of natural and man-made processes. Leon Theremin and his eavesdropping systems. Spy technology and the art of vibrations.  All sorts of sensors and detectors to convert electromagnetic processes and light into sound: RF Detectors, Statics radiation detectors. Overview of other important Theremin’s inventions: harmonium, polyphonic theremin, spectral analysis tools, audio thermal delay lines, time stretching devices, audio compression tools, piano testers, monitoring of piano pedalisation, noise reduction and restoration systems. Theremin sensors and gestural control over the modern interactive system.


Bookings and tuition fees: 

By sending email at, or by calling at (+30) 2310589143, until Thursday 07 March 2024 at 14:00. First come, first served basis. 

  • A certificate will be provided by MOMus, after the completion of the circle.
  • The lectures will be in English; no translation provided. 
  • Tuition fee: 55€ / per person, 45€ / reduced price for students (obligatory student ID on show)
  • The first lecture will be free for the public, with no tuition fee.
  • One can attend à la carte lectures, if there is still availability: 30€ / per person, 20€ / reduced price for students (obligatory student ID on show)


Curriculum Vitae

Andrey Smirnov is a musical artist and researcher, known worldwide for his innovative teaching method and his research in the fields of electronic music and the history of Avant-Garde music alongside visual arts. He is the founder of the Theremin Centre and has been the Head of Sound Laboratory at the Rodchenko Art – School in Moscow. He teaches courses on the history and aesthetics of electro-acoustic music, sound design and composition, new musical interfaces and physical computing. 


Andrey has conducted many workshops and seminars, targeted both at professionals and the general public, in the USA, Europe and Russia and he has participated at significant festivals and conferences. 


Andrey Smirnov is the author of the books “Sound In Z: Experiments in Sound and Electronic Music in Early 20th Century Russia” (Walther Koenig & Sound and Music, London, 2013) and “In Search of Lost Sound. Experimental Sound Culture in Russia and USSR in the first half of the 20th century” (Moscow, GARAGE, 2020) (The Book of the Year Award, Innovation 2021).


From September 2023, Andrey works as a special scientific associate at MOMus-Museum of Modern Art-Costakis Collection in Thessaloniki.


The Experimental Sound Laboratory at MOMus-Museum of Modern Art-Costakis Collection is based on the historical documents and original electronic musical instruments from the personal collection of Andrey Smirnov relating to that period, and aims at studying the Avant-Garde sound culture and to revive as well as advance the accomplishments of related technologies that proved to be many decades ahead of their time. The value and meaning of these ideas highly exceed the sphere of Russian Avant-Garde. Today, we usually utilize them not being aware of their origins, while multiple ideas evolve in a new, creative manner. 


The Experimental Sound Laboratory develops educational programmes in the form of lectures and workshops, targeted to musicians and music historians as well as to the general public, with a distinct interest in Russian Avant-Garde, sound and new media art, electronic and electroacoustic music.