Carlos, Wendy (Walter)


Carlos, Wendy (Walter)
    (b. 1939)
   Wendy Carlos, the composer of original music for A CLOCK WORK ORANGE (1971) and THE SHINING (1980), remains one of the most important figures in the development of 20th-century electronic music. Carlos was a prodigy from the beginning. Born Walter Carlos, he began music lessons at the age of six, and at 10 wrote “Trio for Clarinet,Accordion and Piano. ” An interest in science and technology led Carlos to build a small computer at age 14 (winning a Westinghouse Science Fair scholarship) and an electronic music studio at 17. Carlos pursued a dual major in music and physics at Brown University, received an M. A. degree in music composition at Columbia, and worked at the Columbia-Princeton electronic music center, the first such institution in the United States. Upon graduation, he began a collaboration with Robert Moog, becoming one of the first owners of the Moog synthesizer, an instrument Carlos would do much to popularize.
   With producer and then-partner Rachel Elkind, Carlos was a seminal force in introducing electronically composed and performed music to the mass market. As Walter Carlos, he adapted classical compositions in an electronic idiom. Switched-On Bach (1968) and The Well-Tempered Synthesizer (1969) garnered platinum sales and multiple Grammy Awards. Carlos and Elkind ventured into film music in 1969, composing a score for the film Marooned that producers rejected. However, this experience led Elkind to pursue a possible collaboration with STANLEY KUBRICK, whose 1968 film, 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, had greatly impressed Carlos. Kubrick was himself favorably impressed by Carlos’s work, and he hired Carlos and Elkind to work on A Clockwork Orange. Music is central to the film, even on the level of the plot itself: its central character, Alex, is an aficionado of LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN. But Kubrick was also insistent that all the elements of his sciencefiction fable be futuristic; Carlos’s synthesis of electronic and classical modes thus represented an ideal stylistic choice. Carlos and Elkind worked on test pieces to be integrated into the work print; many of these found such favor with Kubrick that they remained in the final release version. Particularly noteworthy among these is “Timesteps,” a piece Carlos had composed years before, inspired by ANTHONY BURGESS’s book. Carlos and Elkind joined Kubrick in England, helping him experiment with various music cues for the film. Their collaboration continued at long distance when Carlos and Elkind returned to their New York studios; Carlos and Kubrick were both among the first people to purchase Dolby cassette tape recorders, and they exchanged musical suggestions on tape via air courier.
   For the completed version of A Clockwork Orange, Carlos suggested and performed a sped-up, synthesized version of the William Tell Overture to replace the orchestral version Kubrick had used as a music cue in the work print. Another piece on which Kubrick insisted, Purcell’s “Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary,” was arranged into an electronic piece by Carlos for use over the titles and throughout the film. The completed score also featured one of the earliest uses of the Vocoder, a synthesizer that produces electronic treatments of the human voice. Like synthesizers themselves, the Vocoder later became widely used in mainstream pop music.
   Carlos continued to record pioneering electronic pieces, including Sonic Seasonings (1972), a precursor to ambient/new-age environmental music; and reworkings of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos, released as Switched-On Brandenburg, volumes 1 and 2, in 1979. Now Wendy Carlos (after a sex change), the composer was approached by Kubrick to work on The Shining in 1979. With no footage yet available, Carlos and Elkind composed music to match scenes in STEPHEN KING’s novel, their pieces inspired by Sibelius (to whose “Valse Trieste” Kubrick had been listening) and Mahler. They produced a halfhour’s worth of cues and demos, one of which was used in the Shining trailer. When finally shown a work print, including a number of scenes cut from the film, Carlos and Elkind continued their work, scoring many of the cut scenes. But Kubrick by this point was increasingly inclined to use previously recorded pieces. For example, Carlos and Elkind suggested that Kubrick use Berlioz’s Requiem in the film, and they recorded a version for synthesizers and small orchestra; Kubrick, however, preferred, and eventually used, an older, full-orchestra version. Though neither The Shining nor its soundtrack album contain much of Carlos’s work, Kubrick integrated many of her and Elkind’s sonic elements into the sound design (including wind effects and a soundscape built around a heartbeat) often in combination with the more traditional orchestral pieces.
   Since The Shining, Carlos only occasionally has done film soundtrack work, composing the scores for Tron (1982), and a British film called Woundings in 1998. She has also continued to record albums of electronic compositions, including 1984’s Digital Moonscapes, 1987’s Beauty in the Beast, and 1998’s Tales of Heaven and Hell. Newly remastered versions of her classical adaptations were released in 1999, joining 1995’s full revision of her landmark work, Switched-On Bach 2000.
   References
   ■ The All-Music Guide, www.allmusic.com; LoBrutto,Vincent. Stanley Kubrick: A Biography (New York: Da Capo, 1999);
   ■ The Wendy Carlos Home Page, www.wendycarlos.com.
   P. B. R.

The Encyclopedia of Stanley Kubrick. . 2002.

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