Wendy Carlos

Composer / Pianist

Born: 14 November 1939
Birthplace: Pawtucket, Rhode Island
Best known as: Synthesizer performer of the album Switched-On Bach

Name at birth: Walter Carlos

Keyboardist and composer Wendy Carlos is a pioneer in electronic music, known popularly for her "switched-on" renditions of the music of classical composers. Carlos studied music and physics at Brown University, then studied at Columbia University and found work as a recording engineer in New York City. There she worked with inventor Robert Moog and began using one of his first keyboard synthesizers in the early 1960s. Carlos' first album, Switched-On Bach, was a smash success in 1968, winning three Grammy awards and staying on the classical music charts for more than 300 weeks. Carlos recorded other classical albums and provided music for feature films, including work with Stanley Kubrick on A Clockwork Orange and The Shining. She has continued to compose, record and invent equipment, and is an avid fan of solar eclipses.

Extra credit: Switched-On Bach was based on the music of composer and organist Johann Sebastian Bach... Carlos was born as Walter Carlos and became Wendy Carlos after undergoing a sex-change procedure in the late 1960s, though her albums of that era were still released under the name of Walter Carlos. She has noted on her official site: "Politically incorrect fears and dissembling perpetuated a fictionalized identity including faked pictures, for 10 years (grrr...). I naively let them run amok, forced to hide from the public until 1979, when fed up, I pulled the plug on the whole mess"... The date of Switched-On Bach is sometimes misstated: the album was released in 1968 and won its three Grammy awards in 1969.

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More on Wendy Carlos from Fact Monster:

  • Wendy Carlos - Biography of Wendy Carlos, Synthesizer performer of the album Switched-On Bach
  • Johann Sebastian Bach - Biography of Johann Sebastian Bach, German Baroque composer
  • Robert Moog - Biography of Robert Moog, The guy who invented the Moog synthesizer
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