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Watch Composer Wendy Carlos Demo an Original Moog Synthesizer (1989)

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She’s worked with Stanley Kubrick *and* “Weird Al” Yankovic, and helped Robert Moog in the development of his eponymous synthesizer. Wendy Carlos is also one of the first high profile transgender artists--credited as Walter Carlos for Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange but having transitioned to Wendy by the time of The Shining, in which only a few of her pieces were used.

In this brief clip from a 1989 BBC episode of Horizon, Carlos, accompanied by her two cats, explains how she uses analog synths to create electronic facsimiles of real instruments--in this case creating an approximation of a xylophone, sculpting a sine wave until it sounds like a mallet on wood.




The segment also shows Carlos operating one of the original Moog synths, about the size of a fridge and looking like an old telephone switchboard with a keyboard attached. By plugging and unplugging a series of cables, she demonstrates, the sine wave is deconstructed from its original “pure” but harsh sound. Later analog synths were additive, not subtractive, she explains. (It’s one of the few times I’ve seen old tech explained so well and so quickly.)

Along with working with Bob Moog, Carlos studied at Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center alongside two pioneers of early electronic music: Vladimir Ussachevsky and Otto Luening, both of whom would make very challenging compositions and musique concrete.

But Wendy chose both the classical and popular path, creating the Switched on Bach series that featured 17th century music played on the Moog synth and others. It would lead her to Kubrick and A Clockwork Orange’s idiosyncratic score and even more success. Apart from her score for Disney’s Tron, now very much beloved by fans, Carlos turned to more personal, soundscape work later. And in 2005, if you can find a copy, she put out a multiple-CD set of all her soundtrack work that Kubrick never used for The Shining and others.

The description of the entire Horizon episode has a technofear theme: “In Paris, Xavier Rodet has taught a computer to sing Mozart; in Greenwich Village, Wendy Carlos synthesises a classical concerto from electronic tones...In Australia, Manfred Clynes reckons he has discovered a universal human language of emotion. To prove it he creates feelings on tape. What's left for human performers to contribute?”

This program was at least a decade after the first sampling keyboard, so the anxiety is either late or overhyped. But it also sounds familiar to our current concerns over AI (as seen in these very web pages!). Synths never replaced human instruments, but it did create more synth players. AI won’t replace human decision making (probably), but it will certainly create more AI programmers.

Related Content:

Hear Glenn Gould Sing the Praise of the Moog Synthesizer and Wendy Carlos’ Switched-On Bach, the “Record of the Decade” (1968)

Wendy Carlos’ Switched on Bach Turns 50 This Month: Learn How the Classical Synth Record Introduced the World to the Moog

The Scores That Electronic Music Pioneer Wendy Carlos Composed for Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange and The Shining

What the Future Sounded Like: Documentary Tells the Forgotten 1960s History of Britain’s Avant-Garde Electronic Musicians

Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the artist interview-based FunkZone Podcast and is the producer of KCRW's Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

Watch Composer Wendy Carlos Demo an Original Moog Synthesizer (1989) is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

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sluicing
19 days ago
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‘The Ant and the Grasshopper’ (my cartoon for yesterday’s @guardian review

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‘The Ant and the Grasshopper’ (my cartoon for yesterday’s @guardian review

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sluicing
20 days ago
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Here are a couple dark-ass photos of the Hori Dragon Quest Slime...

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Here are a couple dark-ass photos of the Hori Dragon Quest Slime keyboard for Wii and PC. As you can see, it is very slimy.

The “F” keys all have detachable slimes and there’s a staircase on the “escape” key.

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sluicing
22 days ago
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The Care and Feeding of the Uffington White Horse Through More Than 100 Generations

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The Uffington White Horse is a prehistoric monument that’s been around since the late Bronze Age, some 3000 years ago. Situated on a hill in the South of England and measuring 360 feet long, the horse is made of deep trenches filled with white chalk and is easily visible in the satellite view on Google Maps.

Uffington White Horse

So cool. Here’s the truly amazing thing though: the horse requires regular maintenance or erosion and grass growing over the chalk will obscure the figure. Which means that the inhabitants of this area have continuously cleaned and maintained the horse — through changes in religion, king, climate, and empire — for 30 centuries.

It’s chalking day, a cleaning ritual that has happened here regularly for three millennia. Hammers, buckets of chalk and kneepads are handed out and everyone is allocated an area. The chalkers kneel and smash the chalk to a paste, whitening the stony pathways in the grass inch by inch. “It’s the world’s largest coloring between the lines,” says George Buce, one of the participants.

Chalking or “scouring” the horse was already an ancient custom when antiquarian Francis Wise wrote about it in 1736. “The ceremony of scouring the Horse, from time immemorial, has been solemnized by a numerous concourse of people from all the villages roundabout,” he wrote.

In the past, thousands of people would come for the scouring, holding a fair in the circle of a prehistoric fort nearby. These days it’s a quieter event. The only sounds are the wind, distant birdsong and the thumping of hammers on the chalk that can be felt through the feet.

The maintenance may have actually been the point of the horse:

From the start the horse would have required regular upkeep to stay visible. It might seem strange that the horse’s creators chose such an unstable form for their monument, but archaeologists believe this could have been intentional. A chalk hill figure requires a social group to maintain it, and it could be that today’s cleaning is an echo of an early ritual gathering that was part of the horse’s original function.

A group from the Long Now Foundation recently went to help out with the chalking of the horse and the trip report touches on the importance of upkeep to the infrastructure that our society depends on:

Though it requires considerably less resources to maintain, and is more symbolic than functional, the Uffington White Horse nonetheless offers a lesson in maintaining the infrastructure of cities today. “As humans, we are historically biased against maintenance,” Smith said in her Long Now lecture. “And yet that is exactly what infrastructure needs.”

When infrastructure becomes symbolic to a built environment, it is more likely to be maintained. Smith gave the example of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge to illustrate this point. Much like the White Horse, the Golden Gate Bridge undergoes a willing and regular form of maintenance. “Somewhere between five to ten thousand gallons of paint a year, and thirty painters, are dedicated to keeping the Golden Gate Bridge golden,” Smith said.

(via @veganstraightedge)

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sluicing
30 days ago
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Bob Pepper art for cards from the Dark Tower board game

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Bob Pepper art for cards from the Dark Tower board game

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sluicing
72 days ago
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The Authentic Pachelbel’s Canon: Watch a Performance Based on the Original Manuscript & Played with Original 17th-Century Instruments

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Even if we don't know its name, we've all heard Johann Pachelbel's Canon in D, better known simply as Pachelbel's Canon — and probably more than once at a wedding. But though Pachelbel composed the piece in the late 17th or early 18th century, it hasn't enjoyed a consistent presence in the world of music: the earliest manuscripts we know date from the 19th century, and its latest period of popularity began just over fifty years ago, with an arrangement and recording by the Jean-François Paillard chamber orchestra.

And so, no matter how many times we've heard Pachelbel's Canon, and no matter how many versions we've heard, we might well ask ourselves: have we really heard Pachelbel's Canon? In the video above, San Francisco early-music ensemble Voices of Music — here Katherine Kyme, Carla Moore, and Cynthia Freivogel on violin, Tanya Tomkins on cello, Hanneke van Proosdij on baroque organ, and David Tayler on the theorbo — perform what many enthusiasts would consider a definitive Pachelbel's Canon. Not only do they play that earliest of its known manuscripts, they play it using instruments from the time of Pachelbel, and with the kind of playing techniques popular back then.




"The string instruments are not only baroque, but they are in baroque setup," notes the video's description. "This means that the strings, fingerboard, bridge and other parts of the violin appear just as they did in Pachelbel's time." The video shows that "no metal hardware such as chinrests, clamps or fine tuners are used on the violins, allowing the violins to vibrate freely." As for the organ, it's "made entirely of wood, based on German baroque instruments, and the pipes are voiced to provide a smooth accompaniment to the strings, instead of a more soloistic sound."

Just as van Proosdij's technique might look slightly unfamiliar to a modern organist, so might Kyme, Moore and Freivogel's to a modern violinist: "All three are playing baroque violins with baroque bows, yet each person has her own distinct sound and bowing style — each bow has a different shape and balance." Their playing differs in the way, the notes add, that musicians' playing appears to differ in paintings from the 17th century, a time when "individuality of sound and technique was highly valued," and none of it was overseen by that most 19th-century of musical figures, the conductor. How many historically-aware brides and grooms — with the means, of course, to hire noted early-music ensembles — will it take to bring those values back into the mainstream?

Related Content:

Hear the Sounds of the Actual Instruments for Which Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn, and Handel Originally Composed Their Music

See Mozart Played on Mozart’s Own Fortepiano, the Instrument That Most Authentically Captures the Sound of His Music

How the Clavichord & Harpsichord Became the Modern Piano: The Evolution of Keyboard Instruments, Explained

Mashup Weaves Together 57 Famous Classical Pieces by 33 Composers: From Bach to Wagner

Pachelbel’s Music Box Canon

Pachelbel’s Chicken: Your Favorite Classical Pieces Played Masterfully on a Rubber Chicken

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

The Authentic Pachelbel’s Canon: Watch a Performance Based on the Original Manuscript & Played with Original 17th-Century Instruments is a post from: Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus, or get our Daily Email. And don't miss our big collections of Free Online Courses, Free Online Movies, Free eBooksFree Audio Books, Free Foreign Language Lessons, and MOOCs.

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sluicing
75 days ago
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