Music / Switched-On Bach

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The first album cover, which was pulled because it was deemed too clownesque.
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The second, more common, album cover shows Bach in a more dignified way than the first one.
Switched-On Bach is the 1968 debut album by Wendy Carlos note . This Cover Album performs the music of Johann Sebastian Bach on a Moog synthesizer, which at the time was a new and controversial move. Bach was held in high esteem among music fans and the very idea that someone who dared to tamper with his work by giving it a modernized sound was considered blasphemous by some.

Still, the album was a colossal bestseller in a way that Classical Music had never experienced in decades. Many youngsters who felt that Classical Music Is Boring did enjoy listening to it in this format. Furthermore, the album proved that Electronic Music could be profitable and merited according to its own terms. Carlos herself followed it up with similar albums in this vein, and countless other electronic composers have tried to imitate her by also making synthesizer renditions of other classical works. Even renowned classical performers E. Power Biggs, Zoltán Rozsnyai, Pablo Casals and Glenn Gould, who liked the work, released a classical music album called "Switched Off Bach" (1972).

"Switched-On Bach" won three Grammy Awards, including "Best Classical Album", and in 2005 it was inducted in the National Recording Registry for being "historically, culturally and aesthetically important". It was one of the first uses of an electronic instrument in a way that could be taken seriously by musical purists i.e. not used as for sound effects in sci-fi movies, thus demonstrating what a synthesizer could really do. To some listeners, the clean and precise tones produced by the analog circuits gave increased clarity to Bach's original writing, even if producing the recordings was incredibly difficult note 

Tracklist

Side One
  1. "Sinfonia to Cantata No. 29" (3:20)
  2. "Air on a G String" (2:27)
  3. "Two-Part Invention In F Major" (0:40)
  4. "Two-Part Invention in B Flat Major" (1:30)
  5. "Two-Part Invention in D Minor" (0:55)
  6. "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" (2:56)
  7. "Prelude and Fugue No. 7 in E Flat Major" (from "The Well-Tempered Clavier") (7:07)

Side Two
  1. "Prelude and Fugue No. 2 in C. Minor" (from "The Well-Tempered Clavier") (2:43)
  2. "Chorale Prelude "Wachet Auf" (3:37)
  3. "Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G. Major - Allegro" (6:35)
  4. "Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G. Major - Adagio" (2:50)
  5. "Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G. Major - Allegro" (5:05)

Switched-On Tropes

  • Anachronism Stew: Bach is portrayed on the album cover standing/sitting in front of a Moog modular synthesizer.
  • Artistic License Music: The original cover features Bach reacting in disgust at the sounds of the synthesizer. However, the earphones are plugged into the input jack of a 914 Filter module, which is itself connected to nothing. This, combined with the fact that he is not playing anything at the moment the picture is taken, means that Bach wouldn't have heard anything. This inaccuracy is one of the reasons the cover was replaced.
  • Bowdlerize: The first album cover showed Bach sitting in front of the Moog synthesizer with a look of disgust on his face while listening to the music. After objections from Carlos, the cover was replaced by a second one that showed the composer standing up, which gave him more dignity.
  • Baroque Music and Classical Music: Carlos was criticized for daring to mess with these centuries old masterpieces, but in fact she actually popularized the genre for people who normally perceived it as boring..
  • Cantata: "Sinfonia to Cantata No. 29" and "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring", from "Cantata No. 147".
  • Cool Old Guy: The man dressed up as Bach on the album cover.
  • Cover Album: All music is by Johann Sebastian Bach.
  • Electronic Music: Popularized the genre.
  • Instrumental: All tracks are instrumental.
  • In the Style of...: For the re-release, Carlos wrote a Second Movement for the Third Brandenburg (which doesn't have a Second Movement) which sounds as if Bach wrote it.
  • New Sound Album: Not so much in content, as this is music everyone already heard before, but in sound, as this was the first full electronic music rendition of classical music.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Johann Sebastian Bach is portrayed by an actor on the cover.
  • Recycled In Space: It's Johann Sebastian Bach... but played in an electronic style!
  • Remake: The 1992 "Switched-On Bach 2000" is a remake of the original album, with the same tracks, but with different digital sounds.
  • Rock Me, Amadeus!: Music by the baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach played on a Moog synthesizer.
  • Sequel: "Switched On Bach" (1968) was followed by similar electronic Bach versions, such as "The Well-Tempered Synthesizer" (1969), "Switched-On Bach II" (1973), "Switched-On Brandenburgs" (1979) and "Switched-On Bach 2000" (1992).
  • Synthpop: One of the landmark albums.

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