Wendy Carlos

Wendy Carlos is probably the best-known Moog performer and arranger. Her album Switched-On Bach (1968) is still the best-selling classical record of all time. This sensational rendering of Bach’s music showed that the Moog Synthesizer was an instrument capable of generating an enormous range of expressive effects and crossing musical boundaries. Bob Moog was given the master tape of Wendy’s arrangement of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 to play at the 1968 annual meeting of the Audio Engineers Society (AES). Bob recalls that the “poker-faced” engineers, who had heard it all before, had “tears in their eyes” in response to the experience. Upon release, Switched-On Bach became an immediate sensation. Bob and Wendy received multiple interview requests and were invited to appear on national TV—including NBC’s The Today Show, then anchored by Hugh Downs. Wendy had a degree in Physics from Brown University and a Master’s in Composition from Columbia University, where she explored electronic music at the Columbia–Princeton Electronic Music Studio. She worked as a sound engineer at Gotham Recording Studios. Each section of Switched-On Bach had to be laboriously assembled using tape editing and an eight-track tape recorder. Her studio technique and the care with which Bach’s source material was treated (a task in which Carlos was aided by her collaborator Rachel Elkind) led the celebrated Canadian pianist Glenn Gould to declare in the liner notes that

The whole record . . . is one of the most startling achievements of the recording industry in this generation and certainly one of the great feats in the history of “keyboard” performance.

Wendy went on to make much remarkable music, including tracks for Stanley Kubrick’s film A Clockwork Orange (1971).

Photograph. Bob Moog on NBC’s The Today Show. February, 1969. (3 images)
Bob Moog (right) with Today Show host Hugh Downs (left). Printed from contact sheet in the Robert Moog Papers.

Photograph. Wendy Carlos’s Studio. New York City, 1968. (1 image)

Wendy Carlos. Letters and diagrams specifying design elements for the equipment and console Bob was making for her. (3 images)

Robert Moog. Sketch for a touch sensitive keyboard designed for Wendy Carlos, 1967. (1 image)

Vinyl Records. Shown here are record albums by, or inspired by, Wendy Carlos, one of the best-known Moog performers. (1 image)
These copies are from Bob’s personal record collection.

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