How Wendy Carlos inspired my work

All the pictures are hung.  All the artworks are labeled.  Friday’s coming.  Opening night for “A Dream in the Dash,” the St. Agnes Cemetery Art Gallery opening that will feature a solo showing of my photos and Dream Windows.

And I was asked by Kelly Grimaldi, the Historian at St. Agnes Cemetery, if I had some music that could be played in the background while the patrons visited.

I think I can arrange some tunes…  No, I’m not bringing Van Halen CD’s.

I have the perfect music for this show.  As well as the perfect inspiration.

And for that, I introduce you to the work of Wendy Carlos.

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 “Albums I Want To Be Buried With.”

Wendy Carlos went on to record several more albums; she also wrote the musical scores for such diverse films as A Clockwork OrangeTRON 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.

During my time with Goldmine magazine, I was fortunate to be able to interview Wendy for a feature story for the magazine.  A few years later, Wendy and I did a second interview, this time for the British music magazine MOJO.  But that’s not the only reason why I want Wendy’s music as the background audio for my art show.

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.

In other words, she decided that the canvas wasn’t just for painting upon.

Sort of what I’ve done with some of my film pictures.  Or with some of my older cameras, forcing those cameras to take pictures in ways they were never meant to achieve.

So this morning, I dropped off five Wendy Carlos CD’s at the art gallery, including “Switched-On Bach” and “The Well-Tempered Synthesizer,” to play in the background of the art show.

Man this feels good.  So psyched.