Exposé Online banner

Wendy Carlos — Beauty in the Beast
(East Side Digital ESD 81552, 1986/2000, CD)

Wendy Carlos — Digital Moonscapes
(East Side Digital ESD 81542, 1984/2000, CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2001-07-01

Beauty in the Beast Cover artDigital Moonscapes Cover artOne of the shortcomings of electronic music is that no matter how sophisticated the hardware and software have become, it can’t approach natural instrumentation for the wealth of detail in sound and precise control that a master musician has over an instrument, be it a stringed instrument with infinite shadings of bow control, a woodwind with gradations of breath, brass with embouchure and tongue, or any of a thousand other possibilities. This kind of subtlety happens naturally as part of the playing on a natural instrument, but with an electronic sound source, instinctive touch is converted to deliberate planning, which is a very different thing. Not only are most electronic instruments not capable of as many shadings of expression as acoustic ones, but most composers and performers of electronic music are not inclined to make the effort to individually tweak every single note. Back in the 80s, Wendy Carlos, always a pioneer in electronic music, attempted to achieve some of the richness of natural instruments with something she called the LSI (for Large Scale Integration) Philharmonic, a system of digital synthesis giving the performer control of virtually every aspect of the sound. Her first project involving the system was the “replica” orchestra of Digital Moonscapes, which consists of two space-oriented suites: “Cosmological Impressions” and “Moonscapes.” In the liner notes, Carlos makes the case for considering it a replica of an orchestra rather than a replacement or recreation. The music sticks to things that could be played by a real orchestra, ranging in style from classical to modern, rather like movie soundtrack music. The second project was a very different animal, so to speak. Given the type of control available, why should sounds be confined to the replication of existing instruments? Beauty in the Beast takes the technology a step further, allowing the sounds to be designed from the ground up, envelope, tuning, every nuance. The music breaks away from the conventions of European classical music and western scales, being built on rhythmic patterns and tone colors, presenting a sound unlike anything I’ve heard before or since, sometimes a bit like gamelan music, often edgy, and usually sounding a little “out of tune” to a trained (i.e.– prejudiced) ear. Digital Moonscapes is an interesting experiment, partly successful; Beauty in the Beast is an astonishing record of true innovation.

Filed under: Reissues, Issue 22, 2000 releases, 1986 recordings, 1984 recordings

Related artist(s): Wendy Carlos

Latest news

2017-07-27
Yestival Dates Beef up the Beat – Word reaches us that Dylan Howe (son of guitarist Steve Howe) will be joining Yes on their "Yestival" tour, drumming alongside longtime band member Alan White. » Read more

2017-05-19
First ProgStock Festival Set for October – October 2017 will see the inaugural edition of a festival called ProgStock in Rahway, New Jersey at the Union County Performing Arts Center. With a definite slant towards neo-progressive music, the event is sure to please many fans with the inclusion of such artists as Echolyn, Glass Hammer, and Aisles. The festival will take place October 13-15. » Read more

2017-05-05
Clive Brooks RIP – Word reaches us today of another sad passing in the music world. Drummer Clive Brooks, best known as a member of such Canterbury bands as Egg, Uriel / Arzachel, and Groundhogs, has died at the age of 67. Details are sketchy at this point. The news was reported on Nick Mason's Facebook page — Brooks was Mason's drum tech. » Read more

2017-05-02
Col. Bruce Hampton RIP – The phrase "He died doing what he loved" is almost a cliche, but in the case of Col. Bruce Hampton, it couldn't be more true. Hampton, who was born Gustav Berglund III, collapsed on stage at his own 70th birthday celebration and later passed away. The event took place at the Fox Theater in Atlanta. » Read more

2017-04-16
ProgDay 2017 Announces First Bands – Flor de Loto, Sonar, and Infinien are the first three performers to be announced for the 2017 edition of the long-running ProgDay Festival. The 23rd ProgDay takes place Saturday and Sunday, September 2nd and 3rd, at Storybook Farm in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Pink Floyd - Total Eclipse – Sometime last year Pink Floyd released some sort of 25th anniversary collectors box set, the title eludes me at the moment, but the content does not: it was simply a bunch of their regular albums...  (1994) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues