Synthtopia

Leonard Bernstein Introduces The Moog Modular Synthesizer In 1969

Reader Thomas O’Neill let us know about this 1969 TV broadcast, featuring composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein talking about the transmogrification of Bach, as part of his Young People’s Concert specials.

Bernstein’s program explores Bach, “switched on, turned on, rocked, rolled, shaken & baked”:

Back in 1969, around the time Wendy Carlos’ Switched On Bach album became a sensation, Leonard Bernstein was hosting periodic “Young People’s Concerts” specials on broadcast TV.

In this installment, he presents Bach’s “Little Fugue in G” in various arrangement iterations. One of the iterations featured the then-new modular Moog synthesizer, in a rendition prepared on tape by Walter Sear.

The oohs and ahs from the audience as the behemoth was wheeled out on stage seem comical in retrospect, but at the time it was revolutionary.

The ‘switched on’ section starts about 15 minutes in, and provides an interesting contemporary view of 60’s synthesis. Most of the people in the audience had probably never seen a synthesizer, outside of photographs, and Bernstein’s introduction focuses on the ‘space age’ aspect of the technology.

Beyond that, the broadcast highlights what an astounding combination of knowledge, musical skill and charisma Bernstein wielded, and how the broadcast presented surprisingly sophisticated content, for a show intended for a school age audience.

via Marius Buia