Wendy Carlos (born Walter Carlos; November 14, 1939) is an American musician and composer best known for her electronic music and film scores. Born and raised in Rhode Island, Carlos studied physics and music at Brown University before moving to New York City in 1962 to study music composition at Columbia University. Studying and working with various electronic musicians and technicians at the city’s Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center, she helped the development of the Moog synthesizer, the first commercially available keyboard instrument created by Robert Moog.
Carlos came to prominence with Switched-On Bach (1968), an album of music by Johann Sebastian Bach performed on a Moog synthesizer which helped popularize its use in the 1970s and won her three Grammy Awards. Its commercial success led to several more keyboard albums from Carlos of varying genres including further synthesized classical music adaptations and experimental and ambient music. She composed the score to two Stanley Kubrick films, A Clockwork Orange (1971) and The Shining (1980), and also Tron (1982) for Walt Disney Productions.
In 1979, Carlos was one of the first public figures to disclose having undergone gender reassignment surgery.
The Well-Tempered Synthesizer is the second studio album from the American musician and composer Wendy Carlos, originally released under her birth name, Walter Carlos, in November 1969 on Columbia Masterworks Records. Following the success of her previous album, Switched-On Bach (1968), Carlos proceeded to record a second album of classical music performed on a modular Moog synthesizer from multiple composers, including Johann Sebastian Bach, Claudio Monteverdi, Domenico Scarlatti, and George Frideric Handel. Its title is a play on words from Bach’s set of preludes and fugues named The Well-Tempered Clavier.
Upon its release, the album peaked at No. 199 on the US Billboard 200 chart and was nominated for two Grammy Awards.
In 1969, during the unexpected commercial success of her debut studio album Switched-On Bach (1968), Carlos and her friend, collaborator, and producer Rachel Elkind started work on a follow-up using the same formula as Switched-On Bach: performing selections of classical music on a modular Moog synthesizer. Carlos planned to record an “ambitious 19th-century work”, but the lack of sufficient multitrack recording capabilities at the time did not allow such an undertaking. Ideas for Carlos to record her own compositions seemed “untimely” and was shelved for potential future albums. The two decided on a “new switched on Baroque album” featuring multiple composers, including Johann Sebastian Bach, Claudio Monteverdi, Domenico Scarlatti, and George Frideric Handel.
Like Switched-On Bach, the album was recorded on an 8-track Ampex tape recorder using numerous takes and overdubs. Carlos chose pieces from Handel’s Water Music suites as the music contained passages that suited to the limitations of the Moog synthesizer.
Canadian pianist Glenn Gould spoke about Carlos’ rendition of Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 in G major: “To put it bluntly, the finest performance of any of the Brandenburgs—live, canned, or intuited—I’ve ever heard.”
The Well-Tempered Synthesizer was released in November 1969. It peaked at No. 199 on the Billboard 200 chart and was nominated for two Grammy Awards. In February 1974, Billboard reported that the album had sold around 200,000 copies in the US. (by wikipedia)
The soundtrack of my life (Steve Morse, Deep Purple):
Pressed for a sequel to Switched-On Bach, the unexpectedly hot-selling breakthrough album for the synthesizer, Wendy Carlos temporarily shelved plans to move out of the 18th century and instead came up with an album that is, in some ways, even better than its famous predecessor. Her instrument rack had grown larger and more flexible and her technical abilities even sharper in the year since SOB came out — and the improvements are audible in the thicker harmonies and more sophisticated timbres, all without losing the zest and experimental zeal of the earlier record. Here, she revisits J.S. Bach and imaginatively translates the music of Monteverdi, Handel, and especially Domenico Scarlatti into the electronic medium. Excerpts from Monteverdi’s “Orfeo” and “1610 Vespers” serve as the gateway and closing benediction, respectively, to this collection, and four Scarlatti keyboard sonatas are given dazzling treatments (the sonata in G became well-known in the ’90s on a Christmas TV commercial). There is a mini-suite from Handel’s “Water Music” at the center of the album, and the densely orchestrated yet still dancing treatment of Bach’s “Brandenburg Concerto No. 4” serves as a signpost as to how far Carlos had come in only a year. (by Richard S. Ginell)
Wendy Carlos (synthesizer)
01. Orfeo Suite (Toccata; Ritornello I; Choro II; Ritornello II; Choro II; Ritornello II) (Monteverdi) 3.22
02. Sonata in G major, L. 209/K. 455 (Scarlatti) 1.42
03. Sonata in D major, L. 164/K. 491 (Scarlatti) 3.55
04. Water Music: “Bourrée (Händel) 0.48
05. Water Music: Air (Händel) 2.47
06. Water Music: Allegro Deciso (Händel) 3.01
07. Sonata in E major, L. 430/K. 531 (Scarlatti) 1.56
08. Sonata in D major, L. 465/K. 96 (Scarlatti) 2.31
09. Brandenburg Concerto #4 in G major: Allegro (Bach) 8.06
10. Brandenburg Concerto #4 in G major: Andante (Bach) 3.37
11. Brandenburg Concerto #4 in G major: Presto (Bach) 4.46
12. Domine ad adjuvandum (from the 1610 Vespers) (Monteverdi) 2.22+
13. Stereo Alignment Tones 0.10
14. Well Tempered Experiments (Wendy Carlos talks about her / his music) 9.08