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Encyclopedia > Switched On Bach
Switched On Bach
Album by Wendy Carlos
Released 1968
Recorded 1968
Genre Electronic_music
Length 39 min 45 sec
Record label Columbia Records
Producer Rachel Elkind
Professional reviews
Allmusic.com ... link (http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&uid=UIDSUB040403090736492261&sql=Ayhjv7i6og76r)

Switched On Bach is a 1968 album by Wendy Carlos (then named "Walter Carlos") on CBS Records . It was the first record to popularise music performed on synthesizers, and resulted in a huge increase in interest in synthesizers, particularly Moog synthesizers. The album was the first classical album to go Platinum. It went quickly to the Top 10 in Billboard's pop Top 200 and stayed in the chart for more than a year. In the 1970 Grammy awards, the album took three prizes: Best Classical Album, Best Classical Music Performance, Instrumental Soloist(s) (With or Without Orchestra) and Best Classical Engineered Recording.

The album consists of a selection of pieces by Johann Sebastian Bach, performed on a Moog Modular synthesizer system (such as can be seen at the back of the room on the album cover). The album was given a mixed reaction at the time of its release (many critics reviled it for trivialising the work of one of the most revered classical composers of all time), but others were excited by the freshness of the sound and the virtuosity that went into its creation. Regardless of any negative reviews the album caught the public attention and sold better than anyone had expected. Suddenly Moog Music found themselves inundated with requests from the record companies for Moog systems, and a rash of Moog albums were released to capitalise on the popularity of the new sound.

Some subsequent releases were similar in that they were synthesizer versions of classical pieces. Examples include:

  • The Moog Strikes Bach by Hans Wurman. (RCA 1969)
  • Switched on Gershwin by Gershon Kingsley (Avco 1970)
  • Everything you always wanted to hear on the Moog by Andrew Kazdin and Thomas Z. Shepard (CBS 1973)
  • The Unusual Classical Synthesizer (ABC 1972) by Mike Hankinson

Others capitalised on the Moog craze by creating synthesized versions of other contemporary artists or genres:

  • Switched On Bacharach by Christopher Scott. (Decca 1969)
  • Music to Moog By by Gershon Kingsley (Audiofidelity 1969)
  • MOOG plays the Beatles Marty Gold (Avco 1970)
  • Country Moog - Switched on Nashville by Gil Trythall (Athena 1970)

The album was recorded on an 8 track tape recorder using numerous takes and overdubs. This was long before the days of MIDI Sequencers and recording the album was by all accounts a laborious process.

Carlos followed the release of this album with a number of other Classical Moog albums:

About her rendition of the 4th Brandenburg concerto on Switched on Brandenburgs Vol. 2, renowned Canadian concert pianist Glenn Gould had the following to say: "Carlos's realization of the Fourth Brandenburg Concerto is, to put it bluntly, the finest performance of any of the Brandenburgs -- live, canned, or intuited -- I've ever heard." Quote taken from Wendy Carlos' website [1] (http://www.wendycarlos.com).

The Well-Tempered Synthesizer included pieces by Monteverdi, Scarlatti, Handel and Bach whilst the others were pure Bach. The title of The Well-Tempered Synthesizer is a play on Bach's own collection of pieces The Well-Tempered Clavichord.

Carlos also released Switched-On Bach 2000 in 1991 to celebrate 25 years since the release of the original album. It features some tracks from the original album and some others. In 1999, she released the Switched-On Bach Boxset, a lavishly produced 4-CD boxset comprising of the following albums:

  1. Switched-On Bach
  2. The Well-Tempered Synthesizer
  3. Switched-On Bach II
  4. Switched-On Brandenburgs

The albums have been remastered by Carlos herself and include some extra tracks, and the boxset also includes a 150 page booklet with photos, production notes, etc.

Track listing

  1. Sinfonia to Cantata No. 29
  2. Air on a G String
  3. Two-Part Invention in F Major
  4. Two-Part Invention in B Flat Major
  5. Two-Part Invention in D Minor
  6. Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring
  7. Prelude and Fugue No. 7 in E Flat Major
  8. Prelude and Fugue No. 2 in C Minor
  9. Chorale Prelude "Wachet Auf"
  10. Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major - Allegro
  11. Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major - Adagio
  12. Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major - Allegro


  • Wendy Carlos - Keyboards, programming
  • Rachel Elkind - Producer

External links

  • http://www.wendycarlos.com/+sob.html



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