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Related links:
- Synergy/GDS Digital Synthesizer

- The Official Wendy Carlos Website

- Buy Digital Moonscapes
- Buy Beauty In the Beast

Other Wendy Carlos Recordings:
- Switched-On Boxed Set
- Sonic Seasonings +
- A Clockwork Orange: Wendy Carlos's Complete Original Score
- Tales Of Heaven & Hell
- Switched-On Bach 2000

Other Wendy Carlos Recordings (currently out of print):
- Switched-On Bach
- Switched-On Brandenburgs vol.1
- Switched-On Brandenburgs vol.2
(NOTE: All of the "Switched-On" recordings are now remastered and appear in the Switched-On Boxed Set)
- Disney's Tron Soundtrack
- Secrets of Synthesis
- Peter & the Wolf (with Al Yankovic)

. .

Two Amazing Recordings from Wendy Carlos
Digital Moonscapes - Beauty in the Beast

a review by Jay Williston

Wendy Carlos is, arguably, one of the most important synthesists of the 20th century. However, many have not heard her most creative works. Yes, we all listen in awe to her early "Switched-On" works. Her ability to make the synthesizer expressive and dynamic is matched by few. But what about Wendy Carlos the composer? If you've never heard her compositions, you are in for a treat.

Digital Moonscapes
Digital Moonscapes

    Cosmological Impressions
  1. Genesis
  2. Eden
  3. I.C.

  4. Moonscapes
  5. Luna
  6. Phobos & Deimos
  7. Ganymede
  8. Io
  9. Callisto
  10. Rhea
  11. Titan
  12. Iapetus
. . .

Beauty in the Beast
Beauty in the Beast

  1. Incantation
  2. Beauty In The Beast
  3. Poem For Bali
  4. Just Imaginings
  5. That's Just It
  6. Yusae-Aisae
  7. C'est Afrique
  8. I Gotta Walk
  9. A Woman's Song

Digital Moonscapes, and Beauty In the Beast, two of Wendy Carlos' most important works as a composer and synthesist, have just been re-released onto the East Side Digital, Wendy's new label. Both have been restored meticulously by Wendy herself from the original masters. According to Wendy, they sound better now than the original releases. Both works were done with a customized Synergy/GDS Digital Synthesizer. These two recordings are probably the best example of these synthesizers in action.

Digital Moonscapes debuts Wendy Carlos' LSI Philharmonic, a library of now over 500 voices created for the GCS/Synergy system. These sounds were programmed to "replicate as closely as possible the features of acoustic instruments", giving the performer a range of control over subtle timbre and pitch changes. It is important to note that no sampling was used in the creation of these sounds, no microphones at all. What you hear when you listen to the LSI Philharmonic is pure digital programming at its best.

Beauty In the Beast takes the LSI Philharmonic one step further. Wendy Carlos created exotic sounds inspired by Tibetan bells, Balinese Gamelan, drums, and other exotic textures. She also experimented with familiar but different instruments such as "bowed piano", "sustained timpani" and "percussive violin". With these textures, she adds a healthy dose of microtonality, made available on her Synergy system thanks to the digital wizardry of her engineer Stony Stockwell.

Digital Moonscapes consists of two works, Cosmological Impressions and Moonscapes.

Cosmological Impressions is a work in three movements.

In Genesis the music starts at an almost imperceptible level and slowly grows in volume and complexity, starting with a single theme and adding theme and arpeggio until the music just shimmers with activity, climaxing and then resting to a hopeful end.

Eden is more traditional in approach, a canon in 3/4 time, with three melodies intertwined in a common chord progression, representing the Garden of Eden in its majestic yet simple splendor.

I.C. (Intergalactic Communications) is about reaching out to other Galaxies, to other life-forms. The main theme is an inquisitive, happy theme that bounces along in 13/8 time. Soon this is all but drowned out by a slow, serious, almost lonely descending chord structure. The piece ends with the the main theme continuing "over light-years and parsecs, until eternity meets infinity" as it dies away in the distance.

Moonscapes is a large work featuring different movements reflecting various moons of our solar system. Much like what Holst did for "The Planets", Wendy does here for their moons.

Luna, starts us off with a look at our moon. The themes represent the gamut from "love to lunacy" that our moon finds itself associated with. Just as the moon affects the inhabitants of its planet, the instruments mutate and morph into each other. The themes do the same, creating a beautiful diversity and a delightful and interesting composition.

Phobos and Deimos are the two moons of Mars. The moons themselves are lopsided and ugly, and they revolve around the planet at a very high speed. In this composition, they carry on a conversation in a symphony of the discontented.

Ganymede is one of Jupiter's moon. It is the largest moon in the solar system. To represent this moon, Wendy Carlos has chosen instrumentation that is heavy, with horn-sounding instruments carrying the somewhat jazzy chord structure. Above this are dramatic and sometimes playful themes which weave in and out of the piece, representing the complexity of such a large planet.

Europa, also a moon of Jupiter, is quiet and cold. The music reflects this desolation place with its somewhat dissonant melodies and icy chimes. It ends on a hopeful note alluding to the possibility of life beneath its surface.

Io is a volcanic moon of Jupiter, its surface constantly changing. The music here undulates, writhes, and bubbles to the surface, sometimes exploding, sometimes dying off, quiet and calm, and then a violent display of eruption.

Callisto is also a moon of Jupiter. Its surface is desolate and heavily cratered, much like our moon. The music is sad, mournful for this lonely moon.

Rhea is the second largest moon of Jupiter. This is a quick tempoed, and all to brief, piece featuring a harmonic palette of clusters and tritones and a meter of 4/4 + 3/8. A simple, almost oriental, theme is heard above the fray.

Titan is slow and brooding, with dark horn-like textures and low melodic themes. Titan is Saturn's largest moon. It is thought to have life because of its hydrocarbon-rich atmosphere. However, the same atmosphere, thick and rust color, obscures the surface.

Iapetus is the third largest moon of Saturn. It is quite unique in that half of it is black and the other half white. Likewise the music in this section contrasts a dark seriousness and a light arpeggiated melodies. The piece has an animated Stravinsky-esque quality. One could imagine a ballet behind it.

. . .

Beauty In the Beast answers the question of why compose for electronic instruments. The answer: because the possibilities are limitless!

Incantation is set in a Himalayan monastery with prayer wheels, bells, and all manner of Tibetan horns. Under all of this are subharmonic voice-like drones which complete the scene.

Beauty In the Beast combines new scales with a gothic orchestration. One imagines twisted gargoyles and grotesque figures which appear atop churches of the Middle Ages. The scales used are Beta which splits the perfect 4th into 8 equal steps of about 64 cents each, and Alpha which splits the minor third into 4 equal steps of 78 cents each.

Poem For Bali is Wendy Carlos' ten section homage to the culture and the people of Bali, which she encountered while "chasing a total solar eclipse". This piece features a digital replica of a Balinese Gamelan ensemble. The entire piece is composed in the Pelog and Slendro tunings of Bali.

Just Imaginings is a piece in what Wendy calls the "Harmonic" scale, "which continues past the 5th harmonic of just, all the way up to the 19th harmonic!". This 144 notes per octave scale allows modulation in and out of what we consider to be "just intonation".

That's Just It and Yusae-Aisae are also composed in the Harmonic Scale. That's Just It explores some of the more exotic harmonic and melodic possibilities of this scale. Yasae-Aisae is "an imaginary jazz sextet, with solo trumpet and tenor sax" which "conjures a Hollywood-esque Middle-Eastern marketplace."

C'est Afrique is a four section piece that pays homage to the tunings and rhythmic sophistication of traditional African music. Here Wendy brings back her rich bell textures from the Poem For Bali, along with marimba, and all manner of drums and percussion. Wendy also used the vocoder to add chanting voices to the work.

Woman's Song is a Bulgarian folk song in Indian raga tuning with Indian tambura and dilruba. This short piece provides an appropriately meditative end to the CD which reflects the opening track, Incantation.

To learn more about Wendy Carlos and her work check out the official Wendy Carlos Website at www.wendycarlos.com.

. . . . .

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