"Us Conductors stretches its arms to encompass nearly everything—it is an immigrant tale, an epic, a spy intrigue, a prison confession, an inventor's manual, a creation myth, and an obituary—but the electric current humming through its heart is an achingly resonant love story. Sean Michaels orchestrates his first novel like a virtuoso."
-- Anthony Marra, author of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena
Locked in a cabin aboard a ship bearing him back to Russia and away from the love of his life, Lev Sergeyvich Termen begins to type his story: a tale of electricity, romance and the invention of the world’s strangest instrument, the theremin. He recollects his early years as a scientist forging breakthroughs during the Bolshevik Revolution and his decade as a Manhattan celebrity and reluctant Soviet spy. Against the backdrop of Prohibition and the 1929 Crash, Termen spends his days in his workshop, devising inventions, and his nights in Harlem clubs, jostling with famous bandleaders and falling in love with the young violinist Clara Reisenberg. When the boat reaches his homeland, Termen finds it is not the Russia he remembers. He is imprisoned in the Gulag system, sent first to a Siberian work camp and then to a secret laboratory. In the face of all this, his love for Clara remains constant, passing through the ether like the theremin’s song.
Steeped in beauty, wonder, and looping heartbreak, Sean Michaels’s debut novel explores the lies we tell, the truths we imagine, and the lengths we go to survive.
Sean Michaels is a writer and music critic. A two-time National Magazine Award winner, his work has been published by the Guardian, McSweeney's, The Walrus, Brick, Pitchfork, The Believer, and many others. In 2003, he founded the music-blog Said the Gramophone. He lives in Montreal.
This evening's special guest is MEREDITH YAYANOS,aka Theremina, who began her torrid love affair with a Moog Etherwave® in 1996 after watching the remarkable documentary Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey. "Taking up this beautiful instrument has proven to be one the most rewarding and challenging decisions I'll ever make." She has also been playing violin and singing for as long as she can remember. She, along with multi-instrumentalist Dan Cantrell, recently released a full-length album of "haunted chamber music" as The Parlour Trick. Yayanos' quintet AEAEA (with Jarboe, Kris Force, Anni Hogan, and Zoe Keating) just put out a record last month. Yayanos is currently working on a dark ambient EP, to be released under her Theremina moniker. Yayanos is also the co-founder and Editor in Chief of Coilhouse Magazine + Blog: A Love Letter to Alternative Culture.