A Clockwork Orange

Wendy Carlos

Serendip Recordings, 1998

http://www.wendycarlos.com

REVIEW BY: Bruce Rusk

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/07/2009

When director Stanley Kubrick was working on his film adaptation of the Anthony Burgess novel A Clockwork Orange, he approached synthesizer guru Wendy Carlos to write the score for it. Carlos made a mark on modern music in 1968 with Switched On - Bach, an album of Bach compositions performed exclusively on synthesizers. Carlos made the relatively obscure Moog synthesizer a household name with SO-B, and also collected the first platinum award for a recording of classical music.  Another original aspect of her work is the extensive use of a device called a vocoder, essentially a speech processor. You can hear some greats examples of the vocoder in recordings by ELO,  The Alan Parsons Project (Parsons' “The Raven” is one of the finest examples of its use), and some of Madonna's recent work.bim_ad_daily_vault_print_250

Kubrick wanted a futuristic sound to add mood to the film, and Carlos was a perfect fit as Kubrick was also fond of using classical composers in his film scores. Carlos wrote extensive pieces for the film melding her original compositions with classic composers, most notably Beethoven (Beethoven's music plays a critical part in the plot of the film). Unfortunately most of her work is heavily truncated in the film, and the “official soundtrack” also butchered most of her work. The big attraction here is to hear the score Carlos created without the breaks and cuts, in their original length and form. If you've seen the film and enjoyed the score, you've really only heard a small fraction of it.

I enjoy this album a lot partly because of my love for the film. On its own it stands up as a very enjoyable listen and as an important juncture in modern music where the synth took a place as a featured instrument, not just a device to make weird sci-fi sounds. Listeners will find many familiar touch points even if they only have a passing exposure to classical music. Carlos' work would plant seeds that grew a lot of fruit for bands like ELP and Pink Floyd,  as well as the foundation for synth-pop and techno music. Today, synthesizers and samplers are as ubiquitous in modern music as drums and guitars. Carlos does an excellent job of creating a virtual orchestra that sounds very organic despite its electronic origins. Surprisingly it doesn't sound dated even 40 years after its creation. Listening to this creates an excellent link to the film, and it stands up in its own right as a great collection of unique music.

Rating: A-

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Comments

by paint on July 8, 2009 05:46:33 PM
I believe Stanley Kubrick approached WALTER Carlos to do this soundtrack. I agree this is a very good recording.

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© 2009 Bruce Rusk and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Serendip Recordings, and is used for informational purposes only.