November 14, 1939 -
born in Pawtucket, RI, composed during the Contemporary period
Wendy Carlos was the first composer to have a hit electronic music recording, and remains an important name in the field of music for synthesizer.
Upon graduation, Carlos obtained a job as a recording engineer and became one of the first customers for Robert Moog's new electronic music synthesizer, built on the principle of variable voltage controlled circuits and thus permitting a wider variety of tone colors and playing the music on a keyboard. Using the instrument, Carlos and producer Rachel Elkind recorded the album Switched-On Bach which enjoyed immense sales (into the platinum range) and favorable reviews from many critics for the clarity it brought to Bach's contrapuntal lines. Carlos followed up with another major release, The Well-Tempered Synthesizer.
These releases were essentially devoted to arrangements of older music. Carlos' own music was heard in Stanley Kubrick's films A Clockwork Orange and The Shining, as well as in the innovative computer animation film Tron, which used both analog and digital synthesizers and symphony orchestra. The 1972 Carlos release Sonic Seasonings might be regarded as one of the first ambient music LPs, coming well ahead of the invention of the term "New Age."
Carlos developed a passion for observing and photographing solar eclipses. Visiting the sites of eighteen of them over the decades, the artist has calculated that by the end of 1999 that effort resulted in a total of 56 minutes spent under the shadow of the moon. These lunar interests seem to have been joined with Carlos' musical activities in the release Digital Moonscapes, while an interest in world culture and alternative tunings are reflected in the striking Beauty in the Beast.
In 1998 Carlos released Tales of Heaven and Hell, whose main composition revisits ideas of A Clockwork Orange. Carlos has also recently worked on restoring works whose analog masters were originally archived on tapes with a flawed binder material, with a view toward re-releasing certain recordings that have long been unavailable. ~ Joseph Stevenson, Rovi