Samuel J. Hoffman

Dr. Samuel J. Hoffman and the Theremin

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Compiling three LPs recorded by theremin maestro Samuel J. Hoffman and composer Harry Revel between 1947 and 1950, this exemplary set is an ideal introduction to the eerily beautiful sound of inventor Leon Theremin's pioneering electronic instrument. The granddaddy of the outer-space exotica boom, Music Out of the Moon (credited to conductor/arranger Les Baxter) remains a landmark by any measure. The best-selling theremin record of all time, its celestial arrangements, wordless vocals, and idiosyncratic instrumentation established the template for dozens of space age pop records to follow, effectively defining the perception of what music from the cosmos would (or at least should) sound like. The music captures a wonder and beauty beyond the ken of human experience. Though assembled from organic, earthbound elements, Music Out of the Moon delivers fully on the experience its title promises, transmitting lunar melodies to the hi-fis of suburban America. Commissioned by the fragrance firm Corday, Perfume Set to Music is an odd and frustrating attempt at musical synaesthesia. These six performances strive to articulate the scents of perfumes but the end result is simply a series of formally elegant easy listening instrumentals textured by theremin squeals and squiggles. Music for Peace of Mind (created in collaboration with conductor/arranger Billy May) is the most avant-garde of the three records, vaulting Hoffman to the forefront of a series of space age tone poems that anticipate ambient electronica in their icy, deeply contemplative atmospherics.

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