You've got to hand it to Gakken, Japan's largest publisher of educational books, magazines, toys, puzzles and kits. Not only have they created a musical instrument you don't have to touch, they've also imbued it with a tone so tooth-rattling you won't want to get within 10 feet of it.
The theremin is a somewhat obscure electronic instrument known mainly for its use in Fifties sci-fi soundtracks. The grandaddy and inspiration of the MOOG synthesizer, it was invented in 1919 by Russian professor Léon Theremin and patented in the USA in 1928.
Most professional theremins have two antennae: an upright spike that controls sound frequency and a side loop that affects the volume. Most small toy theremins have only the frequency antenna and a rotary dial to turn the volume down, but Gakken's kit includes both antennas.
The promotional video for the Gakken Theremin Mini DIY Kit has to be seen (and heard) to be believed. How to describe it, hmm... OK, picture Thing from the Addams Family combined with Dumb & Dumber's Lloyd Christmas reprising “the most annoying sound in the world” to the tune of Silent Night. Just when you thought no-one could box the sound of fingernails scraping down a blackboard, Gakken went and did it. Check this out – if you dare:
AZmoding provides an online tutorial that allows owners of the Gakken Theremin Mini DIY Kit to (a) upgrade the frequency antenna and (b) install a headphone jack that cuts the connection to the built-in speaker when the owner wishes to play his theremin without annoying anyone. God bless you, AZmoding, God bless you so much!
Compact Impact is offering the Gakken Theremin Mini DIY Kit for $109 and their website includes a link to an online English PDF version of the instruction manual.
Pick up four AA-size batteries on your own dime and make sure you've got a Philips screw driver handy. Twenty minutes later you're good to go, as are any and all residents of the tri-state area, ANY tri-state area. (main image via Jon Siegel)