Electronic Music Wiki

(1939-) An electronic-music artist who works in the genre of electronic classical music. As Walter Carlos, she composed several pre-synthesizer electronic pieces in the early 1960s, using tape studio techniques. However, in 1966, she met Bob Moog in New York and became one of Moog's first synthesizer customers, collaborating with the company on the creation of the Moog modular systems.

In 1968, Carlos released Switched-On Bach, an album of Bach compositions performed entirely on the modular Moog. It created a sensation, selling over half a million copies in the first year after its release, and becoming the first ever work of electronic music to gain wide public notice. In 1972, Carlos gained further acclaim with her score to the film A Clockwork Orange, with its then-unfamiliar sounds punctuating the movie's dystopian theme.

That same year, Carlos underwent sex-change surgery and took the given name Wendy. (Her earlier releases have since been re-released under the name Wendy Carlos.) After the operation, she continued in the Bach vein, releasing two more albums of Bach compositions. In 1982, she scored another film hit, the original version of Tron. This marked the beginning of moving from the modular Moog to digital synths. Carlos became interested in the Synergy digital synth, creating patches for her own use and for sale. She also exploited the Synergy's capability for alternate tunings, extensively using just intonation as well as several alternate scales of her own creation, throughout her 1980s work.

Since 1990, Carlos' output has slowed; her last album of all-new work was 1998's Tales of Heaven and Hell. Since then, she has re-released the early Bach albums as a boxed set, and has released several albums of previously unused tracks and outtakes. Throughout her career, Carlos periodically released albums which were intended primarily as demonstrations of technical capabilities rather than entertainment per se, and the box sets and re-releases have expanded on this theme with inclusions of test tracks and vocal commentary on the production of the music, as well as extensive written notes and photos.