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  • Writer's pictureVanessa Threadgold

A Wendy Carlos Appreciation: For the woman who changed the world of electro-acoustic music

When I first saw the Shining it wasn't just the waves of blood that caught my attention. It was the Soundtrack. I had to know who had created this incredible soundscape.

Cue Google stalk.

That is when I was first introduced to the genius that is Wendy Carlos.

After delving into her background and listening to her other musical works, I was in love.

Due to her being the number one influence, inspiration and driving motivation behind my music I had to take the time to speak about her.

​​Wendy Carlos never followed a conventional music course but is arguably the most important living figure in the history of electronic music. However, people and the music industry are cruel and the prejudice she has faced has caused her to stay away from the public eye - but this will not stop us from shouting her name from the rooftops.

Carlos hit platinum sales status with her smash hit 1968 recording Switched-On-Bach which propelled the Moog synthesiser into the public consciousness.

Yeah, THAT Moog.

One of the most successful synth manufacturers, the brand has a permanent place in the studio.

We owe Wendy Carlos for the user-friendly design changes Moog made, and the era of development in electronic music that followed. She showed what could be done with electronic music when it hadn't really been explored enough, bringing legitimacy to electronic synthesis and making the synth less like an obscure bit of gadgetry. Through her synthesis techniques, she made it expressive and emotive, not just a sound effects tool.

"From the beginning, it was a balanced yin/yang relationship between a maker of musical tools and the artists who used those tools. It doesn't seem to work that way much anymore, and more's the pity" - Wendy Carlos

Film scores, ESPECIALLY in my world of Horror, would not be the same without her genius mind.

After winning three Grammy awards for Switched-On-Bach, she created several albums, including further synthesised classical music adaptations and experimental music. She composed the score to two Stanley Kubrick films –A Clockwork Orange (1971) and the most iconic horror film of film history, The Shining (1980) – and TRON (1982) for Walt Disney Productions. Imagine these films without the score!?

Carlos’s use of vocoders for synthesised singing in her score for Stanley Kubrick's film, A Clockwork Orange, was way ahead of the curve and long before synthetic voices became the common sound for the soundtrack.

We may be familiar with this strange musical sound technique now, but back then it was literally unheard of.

Wendy Carlos is a truly groundbreaking creative mind and was presented the SEAMUS 2005 Life Achievement Award in recognition of her work in the electro-acoustic world.

What Carlos did was groundbreaking and she will always belong as a leading light. The modern electro-acoustic world would simply not be the same without her.

Want to hear something REALLY creepy? The Shining Soundtrack played through an empty Hotel...

To read more about her, head over to her website:


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