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Carlos, Wendy (née Walter)

Carlos, Wendy (née Walter)

Carlos, Wendy (née Walter) American organist, composer, and electronics virtuoso; b. Pawtucket, R.L, Nov. 14, 1939. He played piano as a child, and later studied with Ron Nelson at Brown Univ. (A.B., 1962) and with Luening, Ussachevsky, and Beeson at Columbia Univ. (M.A., 1965). In 1964 he began working with Robert Moog in perfecting the Moog Synthesizer. The result of their experiments with versified tone-colors was a record album under the title Switched-On Bach (1968), which became unexpectedly successful, selling some million copies and garnering three Grammy Awards. This was followed in 1969 by the Well-Tempered Synthesizer, engineered entirely by Carlos. Then, at the age of 32, he suddenly became aware of his unique sexual duality, and underwent a transsexual operation. On St. Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14, 1979, he officially changed his first name from Walter to Wendy. She/he described his sexual tergiversation in a candid interview in Playboy (May 1979), illustrated with “before and after” photographs. In 1979 the two-LP set appeared, Switched-On Brandenburgs. In the 1980s Carlos explored alternate scales and tunings, combining music from old world cultures in her Beauty in the Beast (1987). In 1992 she brought out the album Switched-On Bach 2000, a surround sound reworking of the earlier Switched-on Bach utilizing the unequal temperaments of Bach’s time. From 1992 to 1995 she collaborated with Larry Fast in developing a state-of-the-art digital process of soundtrack restoration and surround stereo conversion called Digi-Surround Stereo Sound.


Noah, opera (1964–65); Timesteps for Synthesizer (1970); Sonic Seasonings for Synthesizer and Tape (1971); Pompous Circumstances for Synthesizer or Orch. (1974–75); Variations on Dies irae for Orch. (1980); Digital Moonscapes, introducing the “LSI Phil. Orch./’ which digitally replicates orchestral timbres (1983); Land of the Midnight Sun (1986); Tales of Heaven and Hell (1998); film scores, including A Clockwork Orange (1971), The Shining (1978–80), TRON (1981–82), and Woundings (1998); also some chamber music and other pieces.

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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