Music: Wendy Carlos

Wendy Carlos (1939–) - or Walter Carlos before her 1972 sex change to a woman - is an American composer and electronic musician who is one of the pioneers in adapting Classical Music to Electronic Music. She first gained notoriety with his landmark album Switched-On Bach (1968), which incorporated music by Johann Sebastian Bach into a futuristic technological sound, played on a Moog synthesizer. This was a controversial move, especially because of Bach's divine status among music lovers and the fact that nobody ever tried to play this 200 years old work in such a modernistic fashion. Nevertheless the album sold well, won three Grammy's and actually introduced many young people who normally would never listen to ordinary classical music to the genre.

In 1971 Carlos was approached by Stanley Kubrick to compose the music for A Clockwork Orange, where the musician gave Ludwig van Beethoven's "Ninth Symphony" and Henry Purcell's "Funeral Music For Queen Mary" a similar approach as she had done to Bach. It gave the film a very distinctive and recognizable musical style which became a Cult Soundtrack in its own right and has been imitated and covered by countless other electronic musicians. Kubrick hired Carlos again to electronicize Hector Berlioz' "Dies Irae" for The Shining. Another famous movie she was involved with was the Cult Classic TRON, for which she composed an original score.

  • Switched-On Bach (1968)
  • The Well-Tempered Synthesizer (1969)
  • Sonic Seasonings (1972)
  • Walter Carlos' Clockwork Orange (1972, now known as Wendy Carlos' Clockwork Orange)
  • Switched-On Bach II (1973)
  • By Request (1975)
  • Switched-On Brandenburgs (1979)
    • First album originally issued by "Wendy Carlos"
  • Tron (soundtrack, 1982)
  • Digital Moonscapes (1984)
  • Beauty In the Beast (1986)
  • Secrets of Synthesis (1987)
  • Peter and the Wolf (1988, with "Weird Al" Yankovic)
  • Switched-On Bach 2000 (1992)
  • Tales of Heaven and Hell (1998)

Wendy Carlos' work provides examples of...

  • Alliterative Title: Her 1972 album "Sonic Seasonings".
  • Ambient: The album "Sonic Seasonings" (1972) blended field recordings with synthesized sounds, being an early example of the genre.
  • Classical Music: Carlos was criticized for daring to mess with these centuries old masterpieces, but in fact she actually popularized the genre with people who normally perceived it as boring.. So far she has made adaptations of Johann Sebastian Bach ("Brandenburg Concertos", "The Well-Tempered Clavier",...), Claudio Monteverdi ("Orfeo Suite", "Domine Ad Adjuvandum"), Alessandro Scarlatti ("Sonata in G Major", "Sonata in D Major"), George Frederic Handel ("Water Music", "Air"), Ludwig van Beethoven ("Ninth Symphony"), Henry Purcell ("Funeral Music for Queen Mary"), Hector Berlioz ("Dies Irae" from "Symphonie Fantastique"), Gioachino Rossini ("La Gazza Ladra ("The Thieving Magpie")), Sergei Prokofiev (Peter and the Wolf, with "Weird Al" Yankovic), Camille St. SaŽns ("Carnival Of The Animals"),...
  • Cover Album: Her electronic renditions of famous classical music are effectively this.
  • Covers Always Lie: Her collaboration with "Weird Al" Yankovic on "Peter and the Wolf" seems like a straight rendition of both "Peter and the Wolf" and "Carnival Of The Animals", but it are in fact both parodies that have little to do with the original stories and music.
  • Cult Soundtrack: Scored the electronic music for cult films such as Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange (1971) and The Shining (1980). Also composed the soundtrack of the sci-fi and special effects picture TRON (1982), where she provided both the orchestral as well as the electronic music.
  • Cyber Punk Is Techno: Her score for TRON.
  • Electronic Music: She was one of the pioneers.
  • Follow the Leader: Other electronic adaptations of classical music have followed, most notably by Isao Tomita (who scored Gustav Holst's "The Planets", Igor Stravinsky's The Firebird, Claude Debussy's "Clair De Lune" and Modest Mussorgsky's Pictures At An Exhibition) and Frank Zappa (who scored the work of obscure composer Francesco Zappa on Francesco Zappa).
  • Genre Motif: Carlos intentionally scored all scenes in TRON set in the real world only with orchestral music, saving the electronic music for cyberspace. (Daft Punk doesn't follow this convention in TRON: Legacy, instead saving the orchestral music for the more emotional moments of the movie, on or off the grid.)
  • In Harmony with Nature: "Sonic Seasonings" combines music with field recordings, such as rushing wind, birdsong and sounds of insects.
  • Instrumental: All her work is basically instrumental.
  • Mickey Mousing: Carlos did this a few times in TRON, notably during Sark walking to the MCP core, where his footstep punctuations are actually in the score, not sound effects. According to the liner notes of the CD release of the soundtrack, composer Wendy Carlos actually used this much more in the original drafts of the score, but was requested to lessen it by the production staff.
  • Nightmare Fuel Station Attendant: Her rendition of Henry Purcell's "Funeral Music for Queen Mary", famously used as the intro to A Clockwork Orange, and Hector Berlioz' "Dies Irae" from "Symphonie Fantastique", used as the intro to The Shining are extremely creepy, especially compared to the original music.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Switched-On Bach 2000 was released eight years earlier than the title indicates.
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis: Carlos is better known for scoring work of other, more famous composers than for her own music. The fact that she was one of the first celebrities to undergo a sex change has also made her more notable than her music in some circles.
  • Pun-Based Title: Her second album, The Well-Tempered Synthesizer, is a pun on J. S. Bach's The Well-Tempered Clavier.
  • Recycled In Space: Released classical music that you can already buy and hear everywhere... but played in an electronic style!
  • 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).
  • Synthpop: One of the most famous names in the field.