Wendy Carlos

Walter Carlos - Switched On Bach
Walter Carlos – Switched On Bach

Wendy Carlos managed to become one of the most important people in Pop music whilst recording Classical. Well Baroque actually. The realizations of the pieces are so well done both from a sound perspective and the playing that the record was impossible to ignore.

Switched On Bach was the first time the synthesizer really had the chance to take the spotlight as an instrument capable of making a whole record. Before that, Theramin recordings (Clara Rockmore) tended to rely on piano or orchestral backings. Switched On Bach reached such a wide audience, making a lot of other musicians realize that the synthesizer was an instrument in its own right and worthy of serious attention.

She chose her material well in Bach as his composition already has something of the geometrical in it. Also he manages to do so much with so few notes it helped the record to work in a practical sense. Mozart would have required so much more work and been close to impossible to realize as well as Bach – matter of fact I don’t know of a genuinely 100% electronic Mozart realization.

Walter Carlos - Clockwork Orange
Walter Carlos – Clockwork Orange

Wendy also struck again with her scores for Clockwork Orange and then Tron (not that that was such a good movie). This kept her in front of another generation or three. Interestingly most of her personal music is a bit hard to take for most ears so it is really from these three recordings that she changed modern music.

Her influence is clear to hear in records like early Depeche Mode, John Foxx’s Metamatic and of course Kraftwerk. Larry Fast became a firm friend and they share some musical common ground.

Her legacy had another side too in the spin-off Moog does… records that proliferated in the 70’s. Most were twee, some were a bit of fun but some really were a bad idea.

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