DeVotchka's Nick Urata makes The New Yorker, plays famous September theremin

Categories: Media

Nick Urata in New Yorker.JPG
Tom Bachtell, The New Yorker
While the Fray might have been getting all the attention this weekend because they were the opening act for U2's "Bono Single-handedly Stops Judgment Day" concert at Invesco Field, another hometown band done good, DeVotchKa, has also been making waves. That's because DeVotchka frontman Nick Urata was recently featured in the high-falutin' pages of The New Yorker, in a "Talk of the Town" item all about Urata getting a chance to play the world-famous September theremin. That's right, the September theremin! Whatever the heck that is.

Unfortunately, to read the whole John Seabrook-penned piece online, you need a subscription to the magazine. For those who aren't cultured (read: "snooty") enough to have one, here's the CliffsNotes version of the story: Urata, an accomplished player of theremins -- the eerie-sounding early electronic instrument -- is invited to a country estate to try his hand at the September theremin, one of the most celebrated theremins in the world. It was designed by Leon Theremin, the guy who (you guessed it) invented the theremin, way back in 1920 before disappearing into Russia in the midst of World War II.

Like in most "Talk of the Town" pieces, Seabrook takes readers through a light-hearted jaunt through the upper echelons of New York's stratosphere, following Urata as he makes his pilgrimage to the theremin to end all theremins. There's a bit of background on Urata, a bit of background on Theremin and theremins, but not too much -- after all, readers have more important parts of the magazine to get to, like the cartoon caption contest on the last page.

Then Urata finally plays the legendary instrument, first launching into a moving version of "Over the Rainbow," before, inexplicably, the September theremin seems to take on a life of it's own: "...then the sound changed. It wasn't so much eerie as foreboding, as though it were September, 1938, again, and Neville Chamberlain was signing the Munich Agreement with Hitler, and Professor Theremin was about to disappear."

Yikes! Somebody page Stephen King: We've got the subject of your next horror novel all lined up.

So there you have it: Denver's own getting The New Yorker treatment. Set among magazine's rarified Caslon font and even featuring a signature "Talk of the Town" caricature of Urata by in-house illustrator Tom Bachtell, the piece is nothing to be sniffed at. Sure, DeVotchka might not have helped Bono stave off the Rapture, but in our book, it's still darn impressive.

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