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Wendy Carlos
(November 14, 1939 - living) U.S.A.

Wendy Carlos

Composer and synthesist

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From the beginning, composer and synthesist Wendy Carlos (born Walter Carlos) has not followed a conventional music course. Born in Pawtucket, R.I., she started piano lessons at age 6 and exhibited talents for graphic arts and the sciences, winning a Westinghouse Science Fair scholarship for a home built computer.

After pursuing a hybrid major in music and physics at Brown University, she earned an M.A. in music composition at Columbia University, studying with pioneers Otto Luening and Vladimir Ussachevsky at the first electronic music center in the U.S.A. Upon graduation, Carlos worked as a recording engineer and befriended Robert Moog (who currently manufactures many instruments at Big Briar,) becoming one of his first clients.

Wendy CarlosIn collaboration with Rachel Elkind, who served as her producer for a dozen years, Carlos hit platinum sales status with her 1968 recording Switched-On Bach, which propelled the Moog synthesizer into the public consciousness and won three Grammy Awards. She refined her techniques in The Well-Tempered Synthesizer, and introduced the use of vocoders for synthesized singing in her score for Stanley Kubrick's film, A Clockwork Orange, long before space war movies made synthetic voices common. Her haunting Sonic Seasonings in 1972 predated the now popular environmental-ambient forms of New Age music by over a decade.

After recording several more albums in a classical vein, Carlos wrote horror music for Kubrick's The Shining, and composed the score for the 1982 Disney film Tron. The latter score established a continuous blend between symphonic orchestra and digital and analog synthesizers, an often imitated combination. Digital Moonscapes followed in 1984, introducing the "LSI Philharmonic Orchestra," a digital replica of orchestral timbres virtually indistinguishable from their acoustic instrumental counterparts.

In 1986, Carlos turned to a lifelong interest in alternate scales and musical tunings, combining music from old world cultures with new ideas in Beauty In The Beast,. She next collaborated with (Weird) Al Yankovic on a humorous musical album, coupling a parody of Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf with a whimsical extension of a Saint-Saens classic, called Carnival of the Animals - Part Two. This tongue-in-cheek blend of verbal and musical parody continued her LSI Philharmonic timbres and orchestral recreation, was performed directly into a Macintosh computer, using all the latest MIDI and SMPTE technology, allowing both precision and human feel in the instrumental ensembles.

Wendy CarlosWith 1992's Switched-On Bach 2000. Carlos came full circle by applying modern techniques and equipment to look back at her early classic, this time using the non-equal temperaments Bach himself preferred. It provides listeners with an opportunity to experience how far the new medium progressed in 25 years, and contains a performance of the much-requested Toccata & Fugue in d minor.

Over 1992-1995, in collaboration with synthesist and friend Larry Fast, Carlos developed a state-of-the-art digital process of soundtrack restoration and surround stereo conversion called: Digi-Surround Stereo Sound. The novel techniques have proven invaluable on recent film and music projects, and in the remasterings of older works.

Walter CarlosThe latest works by Wendy Carlos are Tales of Heaven & Hell, an unusual musical dramatic work which combines themes from A Clockwork Orange with a dark and forbidding gothic Mass, and the score to the British film, Woundings. She is also remastering most of her back catalog for reissue on East Side Digital, with many albums available on CD for the first time. The first two of these were Clockwork Orange, the Complete Carlos Score, and the constantly requested Sonic Seasonings. The most extensive album project is the definitive boxed set collection of her pioneering Bach & Barque albums. More recent remasterings include Beauty in the Beast, and Digital Moonscapes. All of these Hi-D 20-bit ESD albums are also Enhanced-CDs, and contain expanded historical notes as well as previously unreleased bonus material. Further re-releases and new albums are planned for 2001 and beyond.

Wendy Carlos has delivered papers at New York University, the Audio Engineering Society's Digital Audio Conference, and other music/audio conferences. She is a member of the Audio Engineering Society, the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, and the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Carlos consults for several Macintosh developers including Mark of the Unicorn, Opcode, and Coda, has designed PostScript music fonts for Casady & Greene, and has developed libraries and tunings for Kurzweil/Young Chang. Other interests include solar eclipse chasing, astronomy, photography and other visual arts, map making, reading, gourmet food, film, and a love of animals.

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Walter CarlosIn 1968, Wendy Carlos - who, at the time, was still known as Walter Carlos - released "Switched-On Bach", an album made up of pieces by J.S. Bach performed on a Moog modular synthesizer. The album was an unexpected commercial and critical success for Carlos, and it helped establish the synthesizer - and specifically the Moog, which Carlos had assisted Robert Moog in developing in the mid-1960 - as a viable instrument.

"Switched-On Bach" won three Grammy Awards and was the second classical album to sell over one million copies; the album also caught the attention of director Stanley Kubrick, who enlisted Carlos to compose the score of "A Clockwork Orange" (1971).

Although she had started hormone replacement therapy in 1968, Carlos hid her identity when she appeared in public; and, after she had gender-affirming surgery in 1972, she stopped appearing in public and continued to release music under the name "Walter" Carlos. In 1979, however, in a groundbreaking interview with Arthur Bell for Playboy, Wendy Carlos, who had "gotten tired of lying", came out.

Walter CarlosDuring the conversation with Bell, Carlos covered the basics (defining transsexual as "a person who is born with the physical characteristics of one gender but who identifies in every way with the opposite gender"), terminology ("I wish the word 'transsexual' hadn't become current. Transgender is a better description, because sexuality per se is only one factor... "), and her surgery ("It was corrective surgery. Inevitable and comfortable. It's something I had to do").

"I think," Carlos said in closing, "I would feel happy if a reaction to this interview were a yawn. I mean, who cares? I've gone through a procedure. It's done with. Just let me live my goddamn life and I will let you live yours." In 1980, Carlos again worked with Stanley Kubrick, scoring "The Shining"; in 1982, Carlos' work was featured in the film "Tron".

For the past thirty years, Carlos has continued making music and working to build and enhance digital instruments.

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