Thursday, March 14, 2013

Walter Carlos - By Request

This little oddity came out right before Walter Carlos underwent gender realignment surgery, becoming Wendy Carlos. I'm going with Walter here because that's how my copy of the album is titled.

I call this album an oddity because that's exactly what it is. There are performances of both Bach and non-Bach classical selections, as well as original experimental numbers, and popular songs. The covers of "What's New, Pussycat?" and "Eleanor Rigby" are more than likely what gave rise to the excellent Moog Cookbook, and the sheer novelty of those two numbers are worth the purchase price all by themselves.

While it is interesting to hear Carlos perform selections from "Nutcracker Suite" and variations on "Pomp and Circumstances" ("Pompous Circumstances" is an interesting one because, in the grand tradition of Peter Schickele, Carlos meshes in themes from a number of familiar tunes such as "Camptown Races" and other chestnuts) the original pieces make the album a little tedious. Walter Carlos' original compositions place him/her somewhere in the realm of classical music's Brian Eno. He famously created the soundtrack to A Clockwork Orange, so that's where she's coming from.

"Eleanor Rigby" is a fantastically interesting performance, but "What's New Pussycat?" leaves something to be desired. It just downright weird. This being the case, By Request is a mixed affair, alternately delighting and frustrating.

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