Electronic instruments are vital to our modern musical landscape, being used across genres from techno to alternative rock. However, equipment like the synthesiser hasn’t always been an integral part of popular music. In fact, in 1982, the Musicians Union once attempted to ban synths over fears that they would replace orchestral musicians.
The organisation’s hopes to ban synths were futile, however, and the instrument is now one of the most widely used. Yet, the origins of the synth, which was made widely available for mainstream use by Robert Moog, date back to the late 1800s. Elisha Gray made the first electronic synth, known as the ‘Musical Telegraph’, in 1876, before various other early electronic instruments were created over the following decades.
However, the theremin was one of the most prominent instruments to influence the development of the modern synth. Created by Leon Theremin in 1928, the instrument can be played without touching it – the first of its kind – and features metal antennas which act as sensors. The device was developed significantly by Clara Rockmore, who helped popularise the theremin by touring with it. She suggested improvements which could be made, expanding the instrument’s potential.
The theremin has been used in many popular songs, although it’s not the kind of instrument you’ll catch a musician playing on stage too often. Still, that hasn’t stopped it from being performed in tracks such as ‘Good Vibrations’ by The Beach Boys and ‘Whole Lotta Love’ by Led Zeppelin.
It remains a unique instrument that has fascinated many music lovers for years. However, its unusual nature has attracted some of music’s quirkier minds, leading to the creation of an incredibly strange piece of equipment – the Badgermin.
In 2012, a man named David Cranmer decided to transform a dead badger into a musical instrument – because what else would you do with an animal carcass? Although he sourced the badger from a taxidermy shop rather than hunting one himself, he still had to get out some sharp tools, making incisions to fit antennae inside of it.
Talking to NME, Cranmer explained: “There is a great tradition of people building theremins into various objects – the Bonzo Dog Band had a theremin built into a leg from a tailor’s dummy, Hawkwind, I think, had an axe, and there have been lots of plastic skulls and other objects. The badger just seemed to be a nice progression from what had gone before.”
Cranmer made the instrument out of curiosity, confessing that he’s not a fantastic Badgermin player. However, he has offered custom-made Badgermins for anyone interested in owning one for themselves, and his website even boasts the invention of the Owl Theremin.
Check out a video of the Badgermin in action below.