Exposé Online banner

Wendy Carlos — Switched-On Bach
(East Side Digital ESD 81602, 1968/2001, CD)

Wendy Carlos — The Well-Tempered Synthesizer
(East Side Digital ESD 81612, 1969/1999, CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2002-09-01

Switched-On Bach Cover artThe Well-Tempered Synthesizer Cover artGiven the limitations of the synthesizers available in 1968, the choice of Bach as a focus for Wendy Carlos’s pioneering recordings makes perfect sense: the instruments could play only one note at a time, and Bach’s polyphonic pieces are built of voices playing single-note lines. Another advantage of Bach’s music is that many of the pieces have historically been played on organ, harpsichord, and piano, so listeners are used to hearing them with different tone colors to the voices. Carlos takes that several steps further, into sounds no natural instruments could produce, wisely choosing not to imitate natural sounds. East Side Digital, after releasing a four-disc set of the early Carlos albums, is now putting out the individual CDs. Today it’s hard to image the impact this music had on the world. Electronic music of carious forms had been around for some time, but none of it had appealed to a large audience, being esoteric experimental stuff. Suddenly, there was electronic music people could understand, and it’s testament to Carlos’s musicality that even the critics were impressed enough to accept these as simply new interpretations of the familiar pieces, valid in their own right and not just artificial constructs. The pieces are played from the standard scores, with no fake percussion parts added. These new 20-bit mastered CDs sound absolutely pristine, with impressive dynamic range and depth of field. For the second album, Carlos branched out from simply Bach to include other composers of similar vintage (Monteverdi, Scarlatti, Handel) with comparable success, partly due to the improvements in Moog’s technology. Each disc features some interesting commentary from the maestro, complete with audio snips from early versions of the recordings. Either as historical documents or on their own musical merits, both of these albums stand as true classics.

Filed under: Reissues, Issue 25, 2001 releases, 1968 recordings, 1999 releases, 1969 recordings

Related artist(s): Wendy Carlos

Latest news

2017-10-18
Phil Miller RIP – Sad word reaches us today of the passing of another of the great musicians of the Canterbury Scene — guitarist Phil Miller. His distinctive sound added greatly to Matching Mole, Hatfield and the North, and National Health, and he also contributed to albums by Caravan, Dave Stewart $amp; Barbara Gaskin, and many others. He was 68. » Read more

2017-10-13
Moonjune to Distribute Tony Levin's Back Catalog – It has been announced that Moonjune will now handle distribution for Tony Levin's catalog of releases. These great albums will now be a bit easier to get hold of, so check out the site and see what you're missing. The veteran of King Crimson and Stick Men worked with a host of great players on these albums, and we've reviewed most of them over the course of the years. » Read more

2017-09-26
Bandcamp Shines Light on Niches We Like – Bandcamp has developed into one of the best places to discover new music, and even a lot of old music is showing up there. In addition, their staff has been producing periodic articles spotlighting some interesting stylistic areas. On 20 September, they published one called "The New Face of Prog Rock" which bears checking out. » Read more

2017-09-06
Holger Czukay RIP – Holger Czukay, a musical experimentalist without boundaries who has been involved with expanding the sound palette of rock music since the late 60s, has died at the age of 79. After studying with Karlheinz Stockhausen in the early 60s, he became fascinated with the possibilities of rock music, and was a co-founder of the pioneering group Can. He leaves behind an impressive body of work both as musician and producer. » Read more

2017-08-22
John Abercrombie RIP – Another of the greats of jazz guitar has left us. John Abercrombie plied his way through a beautiful series of albums on the ECM label as well as bringing his talent to bear on albums by many of jazz's greatest artists. From his early work in the group Dreams to Gateway and outstanding work with Billy Cobham, Jack DeJohnette, Kenny Wheeler, and many more to his own trios and quartets, he brought a unique instrumental voice to the world. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Van Otterdyke - The Syrens – Ed Van Otterdijk (spelled Otterdyke here) is a Dutch multi-instrumentalist who released this one self-produced album on WEA in 1984 as part of a three album deal. The music straddled the line between...  (1994) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues