Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Wendy Carlos - Switched on Bach 2000

Let's get this out in the open: I've been a fan of Wendy Carlos since she was a man known as Walter Carlos (no, seriously. Look it up). Back when she was a he, she put out two excellent records titled Switched on Bach and Switched on Bach II. These landmark albums made major waves in both the classical and popular music communities. Nobody had ever heard synthesizers do what Wendy (then Walter) Carlos made them do, namely perform classical music with astounding accuracy and a host of compelling voices. As a child I was partial to SOB II, but certainly wouldn't turn up my nose at SOB I.

In 1992, Wendy Carlos released Switched on Bach 2000, which was a re-recording of Switched on Bach using state-of-the-art synthesizers. My first problem with this album is that I tend to prefer the old Moog synthesizers. Modern synthesizers can somewhat faithfully replicate actual instruments, but they do so in an astonishingly bland and boring way. Moogs and other modular synthesizers were exciting because if you had enough patch cables, you could produce a near infinite number of voices that have almost no relation to any instrument you have ever seen or heard. The original Switched on Bach was interesting because you never knew what sound was going to come next. All of the songs were familiar, but the instruments being used to play them sounded like they were from another galaxy altogether. For some reason the newer digital synthesizers pale in comparison to their analog forefathers. They just don't have as lively a sound. This being the case, Switched on Bach 2000 sounds dull when compared to its much more engaging predecessor. It's not an altogether unappealing recording, but it comes as quite a disappointment to those who have loved the original Switched on Bach for decades.

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