Performer Spotlight: Ed Sussman

On April 4th Kidspace will be free to the public from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. for Free Family Night. This month we are sharing our love of 2892 Science Fiction by dressing as our favorite Sci-Fi characters, traveling the stars in our new Discovery Dome, and experiencing a live Theremin performance. We’d like you to meet Ed Sussman, a Los Angeles artist and Theremin player, who will be appearing at Kidspace for Science Fiction Free Family Night!

Ed, we’re so excited to have you perform at Kidspace. For those who may not be familiar with it, what is a Theremin? How does it work?

The Theremin is the first electronic instrument invented 100 years ago and is the only musical instrument that is played without touching it. You do not strum, pluck, bow, blow or beat on it to create music or sounds. The Theremin player waves their hands near or far from two antennas. One antenna controls the volume, how loud and soft you play and creates the intervals, the spaces between each notes. With the other antenna the closer you move your hand makes the pitch of the note higher and moving your hand farther away from the antenna makes the pitch of the notes lower. Sounds simple, right? Try this, jump up and down on one leg while rubbing your stomach with your left hand, patting your head with your right hand and whistling or singing a song perfectly like you are performing in a concert! This is very difficult because you must master the muscles that are doing different things at the same time and your brain must think ahead to make everything work together.

How long have you been playing the Theremin and how did you get into it? I have been playing for twenty-one years. My father remembered hearing it in recordings and on the radio while growing up. He often spoke of the how it sounded like a violin or cello or even the voice of a talented soprano opera singer. All of these sounds made without touching anything intrigued me immensely. I remembered these comments when I was in college. In a music class I heard recordings made decades earlier of Clara Rockmore, considered to be the virtuoso of the Theremin. I was hooked for sure. I came across a very small add in a music magazine around 1995 which said, “The New Moog Either Theremins are now available”. I called and ordered immediately. I received the 8th theremin off the production line, out of thousands they have made since then and I use it for all my practicing and public performances and lectures.

Do you play any other instruments?

Not presently, I played the violin for 9 years.

What do you like best about performing?

Sharing the art of making music and the personal emotion that music can give the musician and the listener. As with any instrument, I want to master its difficulties. To set goals to do the best I can every time I play. To share the emotion of the music as it comes straight form my heart through my fingertips and into ours ears. Finally, to share the “electricity” that is in the air when watching and listening to this unique grandfather of modern electronic music.

You are also a sculptor and a prop maker! Can you tell us a little about your work and where we may have seen it?

I have worked on theme park projects at Walt Disney Imagineering and many commercials and feature films from outer space, “Star Trek” to the bottom of the sea, “Titanic”.

If someone was inspired to become an artist, what advice would you give them? Study and practice art all you can in school, after school. Talk to your parents and family. Learn from watching movies and books about movies, and TV documentaries. Also and this is very important, study other artists. Read about famous artists, and not so famous artists. Look at their lives, their motivation to create. Read about their failures and how they made something better from failures. You can even learn from and improve your creativity and talents from books about inventors, presidents, entrepreneurs and technology for example. This is true for whatever you have an interest in and a talent for like drawing, painting, dress designing, writing, music and so on. If you have an interest in math, the sciences and computers you have a creative talent here too because you have to discover new ways to get results, a creative side that can see a way to create things that have yet to be created. Always seek out what others have done before you, they are your pioneers and they learned from the pioneers before them!

In our new Storyteller Studio we get a chance to share our stories, and one of the ways we do that is by sharing our favorite books. What was your favorite book when you were a kid?

Ok you asked for it…. It was not a novel or an adventure story like “Tom Sawyer” or a fantasy like “The Cat in the Hat” or something my 5th grade teacher suggested. It was a birthday gift, a large and heavy history book of drawings, engravings and old photographs with stories of how inventors and technology changed America. The book was entitled “American Science and Technology a Pictorial History”.

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Anne Pierce, Art Specialist, has been with Kidspace Children’s Museum since 2010. She participated in the Master Planning committee and assisted in the development of the Imagination Workshop. As a theater professional Anne has worked for the Walt Disney Resorts, Universal Studios Hollywood, and Sid & Marty Krofft. Anne is currently serving on the board of the Los Angeles Guild of Puppetry.