Wendy Carlos: Artist, Inventor and Electronic Music Innovator

You, of course remember and loved “The First Movement of The Brandenburg concerto number three in G major” Dintja?

You should, it’s been a huge hit TWICE, although initially it was a regional hit breaking out of Germany. But, it caught fire and soon became an international favorite!

The original smash was written and performed by composer and “Keyboard player” Johann Sebastian Bach! But you’re probably more familiar with the popular cover version that hit The Billboard charts, some 200 years after Bach’s debut in the early 1700’s

In 1969, “Switched On Bach” by Walter Carlos stormed on the scene, shot into The Billboard Top 10 and began setting new records and standards. “Switched” was the first classical / instrumental album to be completely performed on a new device called “The Moog Synthesizer” The device was invented by a computer programmer named Robert Moog. His close friend at the time was Walter Carlos, a musician / songwriter working on his Masters degree in Music and Physics at Columbia University in Rhode Island. Although Moog’s basic device could produce basic “Monophonic sounds, it was Carlos who assisted Moog and introduced ideas and features which allowed The Moog Synthesizer to be more flexible and POLYPHONIC ( playing more than one note at a time ) Soon Walter, frustrated with no attention to his own music, came to the idea of an entire album of Bach compositions performed exclusively on The Moog Synthesizer!

After spending over One Thousand hours in the studio, Walter recorded and released his masterpiece in 1968 on The Columbia Masterworks Label. Music and Walters life would change forever…The public and the entertainment industry couldn’t get enough of “Switched On Bach. Dominating the Billboard Album Charts! But, get this in 1969 “Bach” shot to the number one position on the Billboard Classical Music Charts and held that lofty position for four years, till late 1973 selling well over One Million records!…

BUT NOW, “The rest of the story, while Walter was counting his money, juggling opportunities and interviews, Walter was struggling with gender confusion! Since Walter was a young boy he believed he was a girl living in a boy’s body! And now with a little money and power it was time to take action.

Walter began the process in earnest in 1967 by beginning hormone injections and therapy, by 1969, while enjoying huge success with “Switched On Bach” the gender re-assignment process was taking its full effect, he lost facial hair, his voice and body changed!

Walter Carlos is rapidly becoming Wendy Carlos, but Walter wasn’t prepared to “come out” about his secret alter ego. To maintain a successful music career, an artist has to do a lot of personal appearances including T.V. So WENDY had to develop elaborate wigs, costumes facial attachments etc. to maintain her “Walter” persona……In 1970 Wendy

made an appearance on The Dick Cavett show wearing a man’s wig, fake mustache and sideburns. This was Wendy’s standard outfit, along with sun glasses and a hat for T.V. And important meetings with Film and Music biz executives.

Walter finalized his transition in 1972 when he successfully completed sexual reassignment surgery

however he continued making music as Walter Carlos including writing the scores for many films like “A Clockwork Orange”, “Tron”, The Shining” and “Marooned”

It wasn’t until May 1978 that Walter Carlos announced he was “Wendy Carlos” The first Trans Gender in the music business!

Did YOU own a copy of “Switched On Bach?

9 Comments

  1. Hey Vaughn! I just wanted to tell you that it seems your entire existence is but one big “bad use of your time”. I happen to be a friend of Wendy’s. She happened to rather enjoy the original piece. She appreciated the attention, sentiment and accurate portrayal of her plight, and felt that there wasn’t anything at all in there offensive to her or her own lasting legacy. What she doesn’t understand or like is twits like yourself, spouting a bunch of nonsense, and forever trying to champion some cause or person, who doesn’t need or want any of their championing. Have a nice day, windbag. Thanks.

    • Hey Anthony, by way of introduction I’m Rick Shoemaker creater and curator of Sixties Music Secrets! First and foremost I’d like to welcome you to SMS Furthermore I’d like to thank you for Kick starting the conversation regarding Vaughn’s comments! I’m still not clear as to his issues with our piece about Wendy Carlos, but I sincerely appreciate what you had to say, thank you!
      Lastly, we are so pleased to hear that Wendy enjoyed the piece as well! It’s that kind of response from an artist like Wendy is why SMS is here! In that regard we’d like to extend an offer to Wendy where she would appear here at SMS as “Our Special Guest Blogger” sharing HER experiences and thoughts about life and music from the 1960’s Thank you once again Anthony I hope to hear more from you soon!
      Rick Shoemaker / SMS
      P.S. If you’d like to communicate privately and securely my email address is rick.shoemaker@gmail.com

  2. I get that perhaps you were trying to create a certain twist-ending by using he/him pronouns throughout the first half of this… this… whatever this is. But even after you bring up Carlos’ transition you incessantly refer to her and “Walter” and “he”, and put her actual name in quotations.

    What are you trying to achieve here?

    • Hey Vaughn!
      First and foremost, I personally want to welcome yo to Sixties Music Secrets, and taking time to share your thought’s with us! Correct me if I’m wrong but I believe this is the first time we’ve seen you here? Welcome once again! Meanwhile you asked “What are you trying to achieve here? The simple answer speaks to the core of what SMS is all about, I am the curator of the sight and although we’ve grown exponentially since we debuted in 2016 our mission has only been to share, showcase and celebrate the artists and music from the greatest decade in history. The 1960’s ! Since those early days we’ have always encouraged Heathy, positive debates and dialog with respect always being the order of the day!
      Now, specifically to Wendy Carlos, I wrote that piece because a) I was and still remain a huge fan of Wendy’s’ work and b) I think that she is one of the most misunderstood and under appreciated artists from the 1960’s I’m proud to say that Sixties Music Secrets enjoys a vast Worldwide audience and I simply thought that it was time to shine some light on a great artist, share her story and hopefully increase the global awareness of Wendy and her work! Vaughn, if you’d like to read a bit more about myself and SMS, go back to the Homepage and click on “What’s it all about” Lastly, if you haven’t already done so, while you’re on the homepage, check out a new article about Wendy, written by one of our guest bloggers, Emmett Shoemaker! I think you’ll enjoy it!
      Thanx once again for joining us here and please, don’t be a stranger!
      Here’s a link to the new post about Wendy!

      https://www.sixtiesmusicsecrets.com/wendy-carlos-language-and-legacy/

      Rick

      • I’m not sure if this is a good use of my time, but I’m going to respond in some quick manner regardless.

        • This write-up is disrespectful to Wendy Carlos. It glosses over Wendy’s emotional struggles, painting a person whose only problem was that they didn’t have “money and power.” It states that Wendy “continued making music as Walter” where it’s more accurate to say that Wendy made music credited to “Walter”, because she always made it as Wendy, because she was always Wendy. It also refuses to properly identify her gender at every opportunity – at least Emmett’s piece is able to do that adequately.

          The article is ‘fine’ in the way it mentions historical facts; Switched-On Bach did come out in 1969, she did wear a wig and sideburns and whatnot on the Dick Cavett show, but my oh my does this article not only pale in comparison to a wikipedia entry, but it exhibits transphobic energy all the way through. This may not be your intent, but this is an opportunity for growth

          • Hey Vaughn,,
            I’d like to share with you a couple thoughts that came to mind after reading your last comment! When it comes to Wendy or any other 60’s artists we choose to write about, we always lean heavy on any source material I.e. Bio’s, interviews and “authorized “ articles and reviews! Which was the case in our Wendy piece for instance the line you cited…” She was still making music as Walter” I pulled from an old bio I found! Vaughn, you also compared our piece to Wikipedia and stated we paled in comparison to Wikipedia! Well Vaughn, we’re not competing with Wikipedia or any “Encyclopedic” type website. Sixties Music Secrets has always focused singularly on the artists and music of the 1960’s rarely digging into their personal life and only if it impacted the creation and performance of their music! In Wendy’s case The Dick Cavett show appearance is a good example of my point!
            Lastly, you wondered out loud if reading and writing about SMS is a good use of your time? Well, after some very serious consideration I’m here to confirm to you that YES! Spending any amount of time with Sixties Music Secrets is a great use of your time!
            Thanx Vaughn,
            Rick

    • Hey Harry,
      Yes, good call, we see the resemblance! But, who would you cast as Walter? Or would you just slap a beard on Julia!
      Welcome to SMS Harry, Great to have you join in the conversation!
      Rick

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