Walter Carlos – Switched On Bach

What do you get when you take the compositions of Baroque Era composer Johann Sebastian Bach and interpret them on the Moog synthesizer? That’s the question Walter (Wendy) Carlos was inspired to answer in 1968, shortly after the birth of the Moog synthesizer.

This album is one of my all-time favorites and, when I regrettably and ignorantly thinned down my record collection decades ago and started “upgrading” to CDs, this was one of those albums I never thought I would be released on CD, so I held on to it.

I love classical music. And although I tend to be more of a fan of the the faster solo oriented material from composers like Mozart, I still really love the heavier density of Bach’s compositions. In today’s heavy metal music, Bach would have been your AC/DC or Black Sabbath, while Mozart would have been more in the realm of solo shredders like Joe Satriani or Steve Vai.

Switched-on Bach is one of my all-time favorite albums because it took age-old classical compositions, songs that were familiar to so many, and explored them in ways that, up to that point, could never have been done. The performances of these songs are not a recomposition of what Bach had written. They are interpretations of his compositions as they were written, performed on a modern instrument that did not exist in his lifetime. I have no doubt that had the Moog synthesizer existed in Bach’s lifetime, he would have composed quite a bit of his music on it. It was a perfect fit. It took the genius and insight of Walter (Wendy) Carlos to first recognize this and bring the reality to fruition.

So you may be asking “why do I keep referring to the artist performing this music as Walter (Wendy)?” You see, to my surprise, this album was eventually released on CD, and I did eventually buy it. What I couldn’t help noticing, was that the album I had owned for many years was credited to Walter Carlos, while the CD was designated to the artist Wendy Carlos.

I have to admit, I didn’t really do my homework here to verify, but I’d lay odds on an operation being involved somewhere that resulted in this name discrepancy.

But that’s just a hunch.