1968 – when MOOG meets BACH

1968. Its student revolts, the crushing of the Prague Spring, the establishment of the dictatorship in Brazil… An intense year on the political level, but also a period of musical effervescence. The list of important and, at best, legendary albums released that year would be enough to write a whole dossierElectric Ladyland (Hendrix), l’album blanc (The Beatles), At Folsom Prison (Johnny Cash), The Dock of the Bay (Otis Redding), and so many others.

In the middle of this psychedelic jungle stands Switched-on Bach proudly. Composer, sound engineer, keyboardist and geek before the hour, Walter Carlos reprises some of the Saxon organist’s greatest works using a modular synthesizer… signed Bob Moog.

Passionate about sound synthesis, the man who still calls himself Walter met Bob Moog in 1964, the year he released his first (colossal) modular instrument. Long before Satellite (1974), Minimoog (1970), Prodigy (1979), Sub 37 (2014) or Mother 32 (2015).When noticed, he quickly becomes an active collaborator and helps to optimize the animal’s performance. During an experimentation session, Carlos took over Invention et Sinfonies. For its producer, it’s the trigger.It is necessary to underline the technical prowess – MIDI writing was only invented at the beginning of the 1980s – that the production of this major album constituted. Monophonic, Carlos had to play, superimpose and set countless melodic lines using a homemade eight-track recorder. Six months of almost solitary work from summer to spring 1968. Another difficulty is to reproduce the variety of instruments used by Bach with a single instrument. « Playing the Moog on violin, flute, cello, viola, trumpet, oboe are all challenges that Carlos patiently takes up, giving everyone the envelope, timbre, dynamics and warmth that best suits him, without trying to make the impossible exact copy. », writes Laurent de Wilde in Les Fous dus son (Grasset, 2016).   

Released by Columbia Masterworks in October, the album features an anachronistic cover featuring an actor dressed as a composer dressed as a werewolf in front of the machines. Rising tide of commercial success, it sold over a million copies, won 3 Grammys Awards in 1970 and was in the Billboard Top 10 for nearly 59 weeks.

A first for a “classical” music record (and for Bob Moog). Unfortunately, this reputation is complicated to manage for the composer who, following his transition to the female sex in 1973, barely dares to appear in public and refuses to meet his counterparts Stevie Wonder or Georges Harrison when they come to solicit him. A pressure of the “stifling” era that did not prevent him from reoffending in the 70s by composing three memorable soundtracks:

 A Clockwork OrangeTronThe ShiningWith a Moog, of course!

For Zicplace.com, Alexis Tytelman
30 Octobre 2019

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