Anyone who’s shivered in the dark at a scary movie or laughed at the unintentional cheese-ball of a bad sci-fi (paging Ed Wood) knows the eerie sounds of the theremin. In the classic theremin design, two antennas control pitch and volume, and you play the instrument by moving your hands near the antennas without touching them.

This simpler design uses interrupted photons (light) instead of radio waves, and can be built with a handful of common components, including the versatile 555 timer chip. When we’re done, we’ll have a decent sounding mini-theremin. You can experiment with its sound by changing the type of light sensor used and the capacitance of the circuit.

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