Ehat Happened to Theremin?

In the movie Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey, they give a biography of Leon Theremin (maybe more accurately, Lev Termen), inventor of the electronic music device used in 1950s movies (like The Day the Earth Stod Still) and notably in the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations”.

Apparently he abruptly vanished from his New York home in the 1930s. Some thought he returned to his native Russia. Others thought the KGB/NKVD kidnapped him.

After giving us this tantalizing bit, they abruptly drop it as a matter of discussion. Then it turns out that Theremin, thought to be dead, turned up alive. They brought him back to the US and re-united him with his star performer, Clara Rockmore, for the end of the film (which he died shortly after appearing in.
Why the hell didn’t they clear up the abduction issue? They never raised it again, even though they had the guy himself there. Even if he himself wasn’t capable of or interested in discussing it, there must have been others who could shed light on it. Yet they never mention it again. the Wikipedia article adds nothing to this:

Theremin was clearly kidnapped – he spent time working in mines and was “rehabilitated”. Why doesn’t anyone talk about this? Why wasn’t the US making major complaints about this at the time. Theremin was an electronics expert, who invented small and impressive electronic “bugs”. You’d think that the US would want him on our side and away from the Soviets, even if they didn’t care about the human-rights issues. A scientist kidnapped from New York City by Russian agents and nobody seems upset by it? You’d tyhink you could make a movie out of that incident alone.
Or does this happen a lot more often than you’d think?

At the time in 1938, we just didn’t know for sure whether he was kidnapped or not, or by whom. If we demanded that the Soviets release Theremin, they could just say, “Theremin who?”

I think the documentary was not more forthcoming about it because we don’t know the details now either. Theremin didn’t seem to want to talk about it in his interviews and I doubt the Russian government was going to tell.

Technically, the instrument used in Good Vibrations is not a Theremin. It is a Tannerin. An important difference is that you touch the instrument (cheating!! ) :slight_smile:

At a talk I attended on Theremin and his instrument, the speaker implied that Theremin was actually working for the KGB, if not an out and out agent. His “kidnapping” was actually his being recalled to the Soviet Union to help in the war effort.