Just in case your new to the Electronic classical music, this is a look at just where it all started with the Classic Album “Switched on Bach” by Wendy Carlos back in 1968.
This not only put Wendy Carlos on the map, it also popularized classical music which to many of the younger generation of the time had been seen as stuffy and old fashioned. It also did wonders for the Moog synthesizer which Wendy had played the music on and brought forth a flurry of similar works by other artists including being the main influence to Isao Tomita.
It was the first classical album to sell over 500,000 copies and went on to over 1 millions sales, it went into the top 10 and stayed in the top 40 for 17 weeks and in the top 200 for a year. It also won 3 grammy awards.
The music, is as the title suggests composed by Johann Sebastian Bach and consists of 12 pieces with the track listing shown below
- “Sinfonia to Cantata No. 29″ – 3:20
- “Air on a G String” (from Orchestral Suite No. 3) – 2:27
- “Two-Part Invention in F Major” – 0:40
- “Two-Part Invention in B Flat Major” – 1:30
- “Two-Part Invention in D Minor” – 0:55
- “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” (from Cantata No. 147) – 2:56
- “Prelude and Fugue No. 7 in E Flat Major” (from Well-Tempered Clavier) – 7:07
- “Prelude and Fugue No. 2 in C Minor” (from Well-Tempered Clavier) – 2:43
- “Chorale Prelude” “Wachet Auf” – 3:37
- “Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major – Allegro” – 6:35
- “Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major – Adagio” – 2:50
- “Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major – Allegro” – 5:05
There is also a an audio commentary by Wendy Carlos of the initial experiments that went in to creating the album.
As this was the first of a kind, the whole album was recorded by hand, there was no midi or computers to help play the parts like we have today, each track was over dubbed on to an 8 track tape recorder, a process that took a long time and a lot of experimentation to find suitable voicing to match the sounds to the music.
Wendy Carlos worked closely with Robert Moog suggesting many improvements that could be made to the Moog synthesizer.
RobertÂ Moog gave a paper at the annual Audio Engineering Society conference, where he played one of Carlos’ completed recordings and said this of what happened at the meeting.
- “At the end of the talk I said to this fairly big audience, ‘As an example of multi-track electronic music studio composition technique, I would like to play an excerpt of a record that’s about to be released of some music by Bach.’ It was the last movement of Wendy’s Brandenburg No. 3. I walked off the stage and went to the back of the auditorium while people were listening, and I could feel it in the air. They were jumping out of their skins. These technical people were involved in so much flim-flam, so much shoddy, opportunistic stuff, and here was something that was just impeccably done and had obvious musical content and was totally innovative. The tape got a standing ovation.”
The album received a mixed reaction at the time of its release. Some critics reviled it for trivialising the work of one of the most revered classical composers of all time, but others were excited by the sound and the virtuosity that went into its creation. Regardless of the negative reviews, the album caught the public attention and sold better than anyone had expected.Â This had a welcome side effect to Moogs business as it was suddenly found itself inundated with requests from record producers for Moog systems, and a rash of synthesizer albums were released to capitalise on the popularity of the new sound.
Wendy Carlos followed the release of the album with a number of other classical Moog albums including
- The Well-Tempered Synthesizer (Columbia 1969)
- Switched-On Bach II (Columbia 1974)
- By Request (Columbia 1975)
- Switched-On Brandenburgs Vol 1 & 2 (Columbia 1979)