- Sight & Sound
February 11th, 2013
Paul Tanner, famous for his development of the Electro-Theremin heard over the chorus of The Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations" passed away last Tuesday at the age of 95.
While working as a multi-instrumentalist for television and film recordings in the 1950's, Tanner acquired an interest in unconventional instruments, particularly the Theremin, an electronic performance instrument designed by Russian inventor Leon Theremin.
Theremin's original design was controlled by two metal antennas that sensed the proximity of a player's hands when moved near the instrument. Working with friend and electronic technician Bob Whitsell, Tanner set out to design an instrument that could replicate the Theremin's unique sound while providing tactile controls without the use of antennas.
The resulting instrument was dubbed the "Electro-Theremin" or "Tannerin" and was controlled by a horizontal performance slider attached to a string. Using this slider, a musician could quickly become familiar with the instruments intonation and perform melodies with great accuracy. Tanner played played his instrument on various recordings throughout the 1960's, most notably performing with the Beach Boys on "I just Wasn't Made for These Times", "Wild Honey" and "Good Vibrations".
Tanner donated his Electro-Theremin to a local hospital in the late 60's. The donated instrument is believed to be the only one ever produced. Paul Tanner and his contributions to music history will be forever missed.