Review - Wendy Carlos: Rediscovering Lost Scores (CD-2005)
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Rediscovering Lost Scores- Film Music by Wendy Carlos (2005)

East Side Digital

Reviewed by Dennis Kwiatkowski

Mention to a baby boomer the name of Wendy Carlos and they are apt to think of the album Switched-On Bach featuring Carlos’ groundbreaking electronic music realizations (which would later include masterful work for the film, A Clockwork Orange). Carlos’ music over the past several decades has been varied and uniquely satisfying. No less an authority than Bach keyboardist Glenn Gould has called some of Carlos’ synthesized Bach Brandenburg Concerto performances the best realizations of these scores, period.

Now, from East Side Digital comes a two volume CD release: Rediscovering Lost Scores - Film Music by Wendy Carlos, featuring a fascinating aural blend of tones and sounds from various films. Some of the scores were heard in the films, others were never used, and all of the music has been previously unavailable on CD.

The selections range from scores from Unicef documentary films which have a locale-specific world-music flavor to additional music tracks composed for Disney’s Tron, to the scores for the sci-fi anti war film Woundings, to other select tidbits.

Instrumentation includes traditional orchestral forces, chamber ensembles, unusual solo instruments, Moog synthesizer and blends of live and electro-acoustic sound. Resurrecting the vintage tracks sometimes involved baking the tapes in order to preserve and properly present them.

Of particular interest is the centerpiece of the two volumes –Carlos’ elaborate score for Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining—much of it rejected by Kubrick for use in the film. Like that other famous unused score—Alex North’s music for 2001: A Space Odyssey, Carlos’ music is rich and powerful, and, in this case, evocative.

The story of Carlos’ Shining adventure is interesting. Kubrick had become fixated on the medieval Dies Irae plainsong theme, an adaptation of which Berlioz featured in his Symphony Fantastique. Carlos synthesized the theme, but whenever she veered from the Berlioz version or wrote variations for use later in the film, Kubrick felt it didn’t sound right. Thus he used only a couple selections from Carlos’ major score and interpolated other composes—Bartok, Ligeti and Penderecki.

Carlos’ Dies Irae is used to striking effect in the film’s opening sequence. The irony is that it is used only once by a director famous for repeating his themes—think of Dr. Stangelove, 2001, Clockwork Orange, Barry Lyndon and Eyes Wide Shut. Thus listeners are treated to Carlos’ varied compositions for The Shining for the first time. Much of this score is superb and brilliantly written if not what Kubrick had in mind. The CD also reveals that the music for the film’s trailer originated with Carlos as well as the haunting variation of Valse Triste heard in the documentary Making The Shining.

From Carlos’ A Clockwork Orange there are a couple of unused tracks—a straight version of the Purcell Queen Mary Funeral Music as well as a pop version of the theme. The tracks from Woundings, Split Second and Tron are equally impressive. There are even tracks composed for Dolby Labs test films with allusions to Bach, Warner Brothers and Wagner.

Rediscovering Lost Scores – Film Music by Wendy Carlos, Vol. 1 and 2 is music that will interest anyone who loves film music. It is a welcome treat from one of the pivotal and gifted musicians of our era.

2005 Dennis Kwiatkowski/ Celluloid Dreams


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