Duet For Theremin and Lap Steel: An unlikely pair makes magical sounds

DfTaLS conjures ethereal soundscapes using instruments plucked from seemingly incompatible worlds


  • Clay Walker
  • Scott Burland (left) and Frank Schultz of DfTaLS

Duet for Theremin and Lap Steel with Andrew Weathers - Thread by Duet for Theremin and Lap Steel

Two middle-aged men walk into a rock club. The slim one with the receding hairline, wearing a gray cardigan sweater, white button-down shirt, thin necktie, and wiry spectacles, looks like Mister Rodgers' step-brother. His companion, sporting a mop of wavy brown hair that deducts a handful of birthdays from his 52 years, clad in a dark olive sport coat, dark shirt, blue jeans and brown leather clogs, could easily pass for an English Lit professor slumming with his students on a no-school night. The two men quietly confer for several seconds before stepping onto the slightly raised wooden stage and sitting down behind their instruments.

In front of Mr. Rogers' half-brother is a Theremin, an electronic instrument of Russian invention dating from the 1920s, best known for creating the creepy Sirens-of-the-sea sounds in '50s-era sci-fi films. The English Lit professor positions his hands a few inches above a lap steel guitar, considering his options. The electric lap steel is both a product of the same era of experimentation as the Theremin and historically associated with country-and-western and certain types of Hawaiian music. Like the Theremin to his right, the Professor's instrument is hooked up to a laptop computer. Peering at the screen, he slides his finger on the scroll pad, making a last-minute adjustment. Leaning forward, he intones into the stage mike, "Good evening. I'm Frank Schultz and this is Scott Burland. We are Duet for Theremin and Lap Steel."

Scott Burland was born in 1962 in Springfield, Massachusetts. He graduated from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy in Boston in 1985, and moved to Atlanta in 1990. Today, when he's not waving his hands around a theremin, he's filling prescriptions behind the pharmacy counter at Kroger.

"I took organ lessons from age six to twelve, and learned a lot of Bach, but I hardly had any interest in playing during my adolescent and early teens," Burland says.

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