the Wendy Carlos Bach/Baroque Collection

Switched-On Bach


Wendy Carlos - Digital Moonscapes (1984)

As far as I’m concerned, Wendy Carlos is a music pioneer. She took the synthesizer, an instrument that had previously only seen usage as a sound effects gizmo for science fiction films, and gave the synthesizer a soul. Her “Switched-on Bach” album inspired a plethora of albums where Moog synthesizers were used to re-interpret classical music and pop tunes. At the same time, however, she went on to create specialized musical scales, proprietary tunings and aural soundscapes that previously didn’t exist.

Wendy Carlos went on to record several more albums; she also wrote the musical scores for such diverse films as A Clockwork Orange, TRON and Woundings. Heck, she even recorded a version of Peter and the Wolf / Carnival of the Animals with “Weird Al” Yankovic. Now that’s truly waycool.

Wendy Carlos...electronic music pioneer!

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Wendy Carlos in her home studio with her siamese cats, 1989

You might not know of Wendy Carlos. But 45 years ago, the entire classical music world was turned on its ear when Wendy released “Switched-On Bach,” an album of Bach’s greatest compositions – all performed on the Moog synthesizer. The album went on to win three Grammy awards, and actually made it to the Top 10 of the Billboard album chart. It was also the first album I put in the afterlife column in my series called

In 1968, Wendy Carlos took a Moog synthesizer, an unknown instrument at the time, and electronically reconstructed Johann Sebastian Bach's six "" into the first ever platinum-selling classical album, "" The album became the most influential "electronic" classical recording of all time, smashing the borders between classical and synthesized music. It won her three Grammys and sent a message to the world that a synthesizer was a musical instrument, rather than just an obscure machine used by professors in labs to make weird robot sounds.