Star Trek geeks and The Big Bang Theory freaks are familiar with the theremin, but it’s not something that was invented for the show and Big Bang newbies may be wondering what on earth Sheldon Cooper was playing this season. In episode 12 of season 4 (The Bus Pants Utilization), Dr. Sheldon Cooper plays the theremin as Leonard and the rest of the guys work through the programing for a smartphone app. In the episode, Leonard decides to create a differential equation smartphone app with Howard and Raj. Sheldon noses himself into working with them and quickly takes it upon himself to micromanage the project to the point of taking it over. As a result, Leonard kicks him off the team.
“Ooh, Leonard is going all alpha nerd on Sheldon’s ass!” Raj exclaims when Leonard puts his foot down. In spite of the fact that Sheldon is a super genius with poor social skills and admittedly very little tact, he does have a sensitive side. After Leonard forbids Sheldon from participating, Sheldon’s feelings are hurt and he spends a bit of time pouting.
In typical Cooper fashion; however, Sheldon decides to passive aggressively attack the situation by practicing his theremin while the other guys are working on the app, thereby driving them crazy and causing Leonard to then kick him out of the apartment altogether.
The theremin is the best instrument for such a science geek as Dr. Sheldon Cooper. Not only is it featured in the theme song for Star Trek - the original, with Kirk and Spock of course – but it is also a very strange, avant garde instrument with an eerie sound used to produce unique music. Because of its design, it must be played with precision.
The theremin is named after the Russian scientist and inventor, Professor Leon Theremin, who patented it in 1928. Using two metal antennas, the theremin senses the player’s hand positions and emits a corresponding tone based on the placement of the hands. The player does not touch any part of the instrument, and it must be played with exactness in order to either eliminate or utilize a portamento component in its playing. Portamento refers to the notes between conventional notes and are possible with the theremin, the violin and related instruments, and some horns.
Sheldon’s obsessive compulsive tendencies coincide perfectly with the intricacies of the theremin. After he is kicked out of the apartment, Sheldon sulks off with his theremin and plays it on the stairs of the apartment building the guys share with Penny. Check out this video which features the clip of Sheldon Cooper, theremin player.
From the looks of things, maybe Sheldon should stick to science and leave the theremin playing to others…