Learn How to Play the Theremin: A Free Short Video Course

When Leon Theremin debuted his strange electronic device on the world stage, it seemed to many people more like a curious toy than a serious musical instrument. The theremin soon became associated with B-grade sci-fi movies and novelty soundtracks, an association that made Clara Rockmore furious. Determined to achieve respectability for the theremin, she championed it as “a legitimate classical instrument that deserves a place in the pit,” writes Atlas Obscura, “right next to the violins and piano.” Rockmore’s ambitions may have been outsized, but her talent was undeniable. “As serious as anyone has ever been about the theremin… she left behind a number of valuable lessons,” including a book, freely available, in which she dispenses some very practical advice.

But much has changed since her day, including popular methods of instruction and some of the technical design of theremins. Now, aspiring players will likely go looking for video lessons before consulting Rockmore’s guide, which requires that students read music in order to transition from exercises to “easy pieces” by Camille Saint-Saëns and J.S. Bach.

One series of video lessons offered by “thereminist” Thomas Grillo, an earnest instructor in a white shirt and tie, begins with the very basics and works up to more advanced techniques, including possible mods to the device (Grillo plays a Moog-made theremin himself).

Grillo opens with a disclaimer that his short course is “no substitute for professionally done how-to videos on how to play the theremin,” thereby humbly acknowledging the low production values of his series. Nonetheless, I imagine his classes are as good a place to start as any for newcomers to theremin-ing, not a skill one can pick up as readily online as playing the guitar or piano.  He clearly knows his stuff. With the look and demeaner of a high school algebra teacher, Grillo patiently explains and demonstrates many techniques and principles, beginning with lesson one above, then continuing in lessons twothree, four, five, six, and seven.

Once you’ve reached an intermediate stage, or if you already find yourself there, you may benefit from the instruction of Carolina Eyck, who has carried on the serious classical work of Clara Rockmore. See her just above perform a stirring rendition of Rachmaninoff's "Vocalise," accompanied on piano by Christopher Tarnow, and check out her YouTube channel for more performances and short lessons.

Related Content:

Soviet Inventor Léon Theremin Shows Off the Theremin, the Early Electronic Instrument That Could Be Played Without Being Touched (1954)

Meet Clara Rockmore, the Pioneering Electronic Musician Who First Rocked the Theremin in the Early 1920s

Watch Jimmy Page Rock the Theremin, the Early Soviet Electronic Instrument, in Some Hypnotic Live Performances

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness


Yale’s Free Course on The Moral Foundations of Political Philosophy: Do Governments Deserve Our Allegiance, and When Should They Be Denied It?

"When do governments deserve our allegiance, and when should they be denied it?" It's a question that has perhaps crossed your mind lately. And it's precisely the question that's at the heart of The Moral Foundations of Political Philosophy, a free course taught by Yale political science professor Ian Shapiro.

In 25 lectures (all available above, on YouTube and iTunes), the course "starts with a survey of major political theories of the Enlightenment—Utilitarianism, Marxism, and the social contract tradition—through classical formulations, historical context, and contemporary debates relating to politics today. It then turns to the rejection of Enlightenment political thinking. Lastly, it deals with the nature of, and justifications for, democratic politics, and their relations to Enlightenment and Anti-Enlightenment political thinking."

You can find an archived web page that includes a syllabus for the course. Or you can now take the course as a full-blown MOOC. Below find the texts used in the course.

The Moral Foundations of Political Philosophy will be added to our list of Free Political Science Courses, a subset of our collection 1,300 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.


Arendt, Hannah. Eichmann in Jerusalem. New York: Viking, 1963.

Bromwich, David. "Introduction" to On Empire, Liberty, and Reform: Speeches and Letters. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000.

Burke, Edmund. Reflections on the Revolution in France. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Hamilton, Alexander, John Jay, and James Madison. The Federalist Papers. Ed. Ian Shapiro. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009.

Locke, John. Two Treatises of Government and a Letter Concerning Human Understanding. Ed. Ian Shapiro. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1988.

MacIntyre, Alasdair. After Virtue. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2007.

Mill, John Stuart. On Liberty. Ed. David Bromwich and George Kateb. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003.

Nozick, Robert. Anarchy, State and Utopia. New York: Basic Books, 1974.

Rawls, John. A Theory of Justice. 2nd edition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999.

Shapiro, Ian. Democratic Justice. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1999.

Shapiro, Ian. Moral Foundations of Politics. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2003.

Tucker, Robert C., ed. The Marx-Engels Reader. 2nd ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 1978.

The Science of Beer: A New Free Online Course Promises to Enhance Your Appreciation of the Timeless Beverage

The brewing of beer is as old as agriculture, which is to say as old as settled civilization. The oldest recipe we know of dates to 1800 B.C. Over centuries, beer moved up and down the class ladder depending on its primary consumers. Medieval monks brewed many fine varieties and were renowned for their technique. Beer descended into pubs and rowdy beer halls, whetting the whistles not only of farmers, soldiers, sailors, and pilgrims, but also of burghers and a budding industrial workforce. During the age of modern empire, beer became, on both sides of the Atlantic, the beverage of working-class sports fans in bleachers and La-Z-Boys.

A craft beer Renaissance at the end of last century brought back a monkish mystique to this most ancient beverage, turning beer into wine, so to speak, with comparable levels of connoisseurship. Beer bars became galleries of fine polished brass, pungent, fruity aromas, dark and serious wood appointments. Craft beer is fun—with its quirky names and labels—it is also intimidating, in the breadth of complicated concoctions on offer. (Hipsters and penurious revelers revolted, made a fetish of Pabst Blue Ribbon, Milwaukee’s Best, and ye olde malt liquor.)

“Has craft beer peaked?” wonders The Washington Post’s Rachel Siegel. You can probably guess from the question that most trends point to “yes.” But as long as there is wheat, barley, and hops, we will have beer, no matter who is drinking it and where. One lasting effect of beer’s highbrow few decades remains: a popular scholarly appreciation for its culture and composition. You can study the typography of beer, for example, as Print magazine has done in recent years. A new online course applies the tools of empirical and sociological research to beer drinking.

“The Science of Beer,” taught by a cadre of student teachers from Wageningen University in Holland, explores “how [beer is] made, the raw materials used, its supply chain, how it's marketed and the effect of beer consumption on your body.” (This last point—in a world turned against sugar, carbs, and gluten—being partly the reason for craft beer’s decline.) Should your voice quaver when you approach the upscale reclaimed walnut bar and survey unfamiliar lagers, ales, stouts, bocks, porters, and hefeweizens… should you hesitate at Whole Foods when faced with a wall of beverages with names like incantations, this free class may set you at ease.

Not only will you learn about the different types of beer, but “after this course, tasting a beer will be an entirely new sensation: you will enjoy it even more since you will better understand what’s inside your drink.” Enrollment for the 5-week course began this past Monday and the class is currently open and free. (Make sure you select the "Audit" option for the free version of the course.) You should expect to devote 2 to 4 hours per week to “The Science of Beer.” Please, study responsibly.

Related Content:

Discover the Oldest Beer Recipe in History From Ancient Sumeria, 1800 B.C.

The First Known Photograph of People Sharing a Beer (1843)

The Art and Science of Beer

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Martin Scorsese Teaches His First Online Course on Filmmaking: Features 30 Video Lessons

Last September, online education company Masterclass announced that they'd soon launch Martin Scorsese's very first online course, "Martin Scorsese Teaches Filmmaking." Now it has opened for enrollment, at the usual Masterclass cost of $90 for the individual course or $180 for an all-access pass to all the courses on the site, a list that also includes Spike Lee and Werner Herzog's takes on the same subject. For a company that has quickly made its name by enlisting famous instructors, they could hardly do better than Scorsese, whose own name has become a byword for auteurism in late 20th- and early 21st-century American cinema.

"If you're intrigued by moviemaking as a career, this isn't the class for you," Scorsese says in the class' trailer above. "But if you need to make movies, if you feel like you can't rest until you've told this particular story that you're burning to tell, then I could be speaking to you." Its 30 lessons, which cover everything from his life and education to developing a style to casting actors to shooting on a low budget, might also appeal to those who simply love Scorsese's movies.

He illustrates his instructional points by drawing on his own formidable filmography and the vast experience that has gone into it (including the physical illness that descends upon him before viewing each rough cut), a process that no doubt provides countless insights into what makes his work so powerful.

But the curriculum also goes well beyond Scorsese-on-Scorsese, as one might expect from a man unabashedly driven by a pure love of cinema — of, seemingly, all of cinema. In the final section of the course, Scorsese breaks down scenes from Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon, Jacques Tourneur's Out of the Past, François Truffaut's Jules and Jim, Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, and Federico Fellini's 8 1/2, examining the technical elements that fill them with their distinctive magic. His enthusiasm has surely inspired almost as many of his fans to go into filmmaking as has his work itself, but even those who lack the burning desire to tell cinematic stories themselves know that if there's any viewing experience as compelling as watching a Scorsese movie, it's watching Scorsese talk about movies.

Note: MasterClasss and Open Culture have a partnership. If you sign up for a MasterClass course, it benefits not just you and MasterClass. It benefits Open Culture too. So consider it win-win-win.

Related Content:

Martin Scorsese Creates a List of 39 Essential Foreign Films for a Young Filmmaker

Martin Scorsese Makes a List of 85 Films Every Aspiring Filmmaker Needs to See

Spike Lee to Teach an Online Course on Filmmaking; Get Ready By Watching His List of 95 Essential Films

Aaron Sorkin, Creator of The West Wing & The Social Network, Teaches Screenwriting in an Online Class

Great Filmmakers Offer Advice to Young Directors: Tarantino, Herzog, Coppola, Scorsese, Anderson, Fellini & More

Werner Herzog Teaches His First Online Course on Filmmaking

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

UC Berkeley Is Offering Data Science, Its Fastest-Growing Course Ever, for Free Online

It's worth passing along a message from UC Berkeley. According to its news service, the "fastest-growing course in UC Berkeley’s history — Foundations of Data Science [aka Data 8X] — is being offered free online this spring for the first time through the campus’s online education hub, edX." More than 1,000 students are now taking the course each semester at the university.

Designed for students who have not previously taken statistics or computer science courses, Foundations of Data Science will teach you in a three-course sequence "how to combine data with Python programming skills to ask questions and explore problems that you encounter in any field of study, in a future job, and even in everyday life."

When you sign up for the courses, you will be given two options: 1) the ability to "audit" the courses for free, or 2) pay to take the courses and receive a professional certificate. If you're looking for free, the audit option is your friend.

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

If you'd like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

Related Content:

Introduction to Python, Data Science & Computational Thinking: Free Online Courses from MIT

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450+ MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) Getting Started in April: Enroll Today

Heads up. 450+ MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are getting underway this month, giving you the chance to take free courses from top flight universities. With the help of Class Central, we've pulled together a complete list of April MOOCS. And below we've highlighted several courses that piqued our interest. The trailer above comes from Drawing Nature, Science and Culture: Natural History Illustration 101, a course created by the University of Newcastle-Australia.

Here's one tip to keep in mind: If you want to take a course for free, select the "Full Course, No Certificate" or "Audit" option when you enroll. If you would like an official certificate documenting that you have successfully completed the course, you will need to pay a fee.

You can browse through the complete list of April MOOCs here.

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

If you'd like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

Philosophy for Beginners: A Free Introductory Course from Oxford University

Philosophy doesn't have to be daunting. Thanks to the Continuing Education program at Oxford University, you can now ease into philosophical thinking by listening to five lectures collectively called Philosophy for Beginners. (The video above is admittedly grainy, so you could always explore the audio options available on iTunes or this Oxford website.) Taught by Marianne Talbot, Lecture 1 starts with a "Romp Through the History of Philosophy" and moves in a brief hour from Ancient Greece to the present. Subsequent lectures (usually running about 90 minutes) cover the following topics: logic, ethics, politics, metaphysics, epistemology, and language.

Lecture One: A Romp Through the History of Philosophy from the Pre-Socratics to the present day

Lecture Two: The Philosophical Method: Logic and Argument

Lecture Three: Ethics and Politics

Lecture Four: Metaphysics and Epistemology

Lecture Five: Philosophy of Language and Mind

You can find more courses by Talbot in our collection of Free Online Philosophy Courses, a subset of our meta collection, 1,300 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

Follow Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

If you'd like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.

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