artist: James Fei
Study on the Rhythmicon #3

This recording is made on the Rhythmicon Leon Theremin built after his return to Russia. To the best of my knowledge, it is the only functioning example in existence. The Rhythmicon was designed at the request of Henry Cowell, a machine capable of playing 15 harmonic partials with synchronized rhythmic ratios (e.g. the third partial, a 12th above the fundamental, will be sounding three times every cycle inrelation to the fundamental). Theremin's ingenious design uses two metal discs punched with concentric patterns in integer ratios. By directing a bank of lights controled by the keyboard through the perforations, one disc spinning at high speed generates the tones, while the slower disc gates the rhythms. The modulated light waveforms are redirected by 15 mirrors and synthesized to sound with a photocell. The feedback audible at the beginning of the track is due to a microphonic vacuum tube.

James Fei (b. Taipei, Taiwan) moved to the US in 1992 to pursue a degree in electrical engineering. He has since been active as a composer and performer on saxophones and live electronics. Works by Fei have been performed by the Bang on a Can All-Stars, Orchestra of the S.E.M. Ensemble, MATA Micro Orchestra and Noord-Hollands Philharmonisch Orkest. Recordings can be found on Leo Records, Improvised Music from Japan, CRI, Krabbesholm and Organized Sound. Compositions for Fei's own ensemble of four alto saxophones focus on physical processes of saliva, fatigue, reeds crippled by cuts and the threshold of audible sound production, while his sound installations and performance on live electronics often focus on electronic and acoustic feedback. Fei teaches sound art and electronic arts at Mills College.

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Study on the Rhythmicon #3
James Fei

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