NMSAT :: Networked Music & SoundArt Timeline

1945 __ Buran
Lev Sergueïevich Termen (Лев Сергеевич Термен) (1896-1993)
Comment : Being a pragmatic man, Lenin was attracted to Theremin's idea for using the remote triggering of sound signals to create alarm systems. In 1928, following triumphant tours of Europe and the Soviet Union with his "radio music" (often combined with light and scents), Theremin was sent to the United States on a business trip. His task was double. Its first, legitimate component was to engage in creative work and start a business selling his inventions. Its second, covert side was handed down from the Soviet secret services: he was to obtain information on U.S. innovations in military technology and to find out which side the United States would take in the event of world war. Theremin earned the right to devote himself to his favorite field ---electronic art--- but under the condition that he would be the obedient assistant of the Soviet government. Theremin abruptly returned to the Soviet Union in 1938. At the time, the reasons for his return were not clear. Some claimed that he was simply homesick, while others believed that he had been kidnapped by Soviet officials. Theremin was put to work in a secret research and development laboratories in the Soviet Gulag labor camp system. What is certain is that Theremin found himself in prison, then in prison camp, then in prison-type top-secret scientific and research institutes after his return to the Soviet Union. Incredibly, while still in prison, Theremin was granted the most prestigious Soviet scientific award, the First Class Stalin Prize (the Soviet analogue of the Nobel Prize) in 1947. He was rewarded for having created the "Buran" ("snowstorm") bugging system, developed in 1945 for KGB, which was designed for tactful, remote, contact-free surveillance of American and French embassies by means of detecting window-glass vibrations from distances of 300--500 m (based on monitoring of the acoustical vibrations of windowpanes) : the "Buran" eavesdropping system recorded conversations in French and American embassies by measuring the window glass vibrations using a low power infrared beam from a distance. (Recent reports in Russia have revealed that Beria, former head of the KGB, used Theremin's inventions to listen in on Stalin himself. Theremin preserved the results --- unique magnetic-tape recordings of Stalin's voice --- for many years, keeping them in his own home until they finally crumbled to dust with age. (V. Lipatov, "Mechanic Lev Termen: 'I Overheard the Kremlin,'" Sovershenno sekretno No. 4 1991 p. 23)Therefore he used a radio-location system based on directed microwave radiation. "Because sound waves created by the human voice cause window panes in a room to vibrate slightly, he reasoned, a method could be developed to detect and read these vibrations from a distance, reinterpreting them into discernible speech patterns. Considering the complex properties of resonating glass, with many harmonics sounding simultaneously, the trick would be to pinpoint a surface spot at least distortion fro maximul clarity of the voice signal. By directing an infrared beam at the window glass and focusing it on a zone of optimum resonance, he was able to reflect the ray back to an interferometer and a photo element, accurately detecting conversations in the room. This technology easily resisted interception (a monitoring unit would have to disrupt the light beam itself) or attempts at jamming (optical overpowing of the signal would be required and was unlikely). The low power radiated by the beam also made it hard to detect. The Buran system was reliable at distances up to sixteen hundred feet from the designated window, but it was not effective in rain, fog, or smog.". (Glinsky, Albert, “Theremin: Ether Music and Espionage” Bulat M. Galeyev, “ Light and Shadows of a Great Life: In Commemoration of the One-Hundredth Anniversary of the Birth of Leon Theremin, Pioneer of Electronic Art”)
Source : Lipatov, V. (1991), "Mechanic Lev Termen: 'I Overheard the Kremlin,'", In Sovershenno sekretno No. 4 (1991) p. 23.
Source : Glinsky, Albert (2000), “Theremin: Ether Music and Espionage”, Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press.
Source : Galeyev, Bulat M. (1996), “Light and Shadows of a Great Life: In Commemoration of the One-Hundredth Anniversary of the Birth of Leon Theremin, Pioneer of Electronic Art”, "Special Section: Leon Theremin, Pioneer of Electronic Art". Leonardo Music Journal (LMJ) 6.
Urls : http://leonardo.info/isast/journal/journal96/LMJ6/galeyevintro.html (last visited )

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