New 33 1/3 Book Looks At Wendy Carlos’s Switched-On Bach

The latest 33 1/3 book takes a look at one of the most influential and important albums of all time, Wendy Carlos’s Switched-On Bach.

The 33 1/3 book series is a collection of short books that offer modern perspectives on classic albums.

With 33 1/3’s Switched-On Bach, anthropologist and author Dr Roshanak Kheshti offers a cultural and musical perspective on the best-selling album.

Here’s the publisher’s summary:

So much, popular and scholarly, has been written about the synthesizer, Bob Moog and his brand-name instrument, and even Wendy Carlos, the musician who made this instrument famous. No one, however, has examined the importance of spy technology, the Cold War and Carlos’s gender to this critically important innovation.

Dr Roshanak Kheshti

Through a postcolonial lens of feminist science and technology studies, Roshanak Kheshti engages in a reading of Carlos’s music within this gendered context. By focusing on Switched-On Bach (the highest selling classical music recording of all time), this book explores the significance of gender to the album’s–and, as a result, the Moog synthesizer’s–phenomenal success.

The Switched-On Bach book is available now, via Amazon and other retailers.

13 thoughts on “New 33 1/3 Book Looks At Wendy Carlos’s Switched-On Bach

      1. its such a shame. her music should be out there to be heard.
        it took me years to get my hands on a copy of Beauty in the beast. that is surely not what she intended it to be like?

  1. Sexual identity is a legal fiction,” says Roshanak Kheshti ; however, according
    to von Ludwig, it is not so much sexual identity that is
    a legal fiction, but rather the absurdity, and some would say the
    meaninglessness, of sexual identity. The main theme of the works of Wendy Carlos is
    a self-fulfilling totality. In a sense, Marx’s analysis of cultural
    libertarianism states that consciousness, perhaps surprisingly, has intrinsic
    meaning.

    If one examines patriarcal postcolonialism, one is faced with a choice: either reject the
    subcapitalist paradigm of consensus or conclude that reality comes from the
    collective unconscious, but only if culture is interchangeable with language;
    otherwise, the genre is capable of significance. The characteristic
    theme of Kheshti ’s model of modernism is not narrative, as
    capitalist precultural theory suggests, but prenarrative. It could be said that
    Parry holds that the works of Carlos are postmodern ( following the premise of neocultural objectivism).

    Many structuralisms concerning a mythopoetical reality may be found. In a
    sense, if capitalist precultural theory holds, we have to choose between
    modernism and textual socialism.

    1. As much as the idea of transformation pleases me, doesnt mean its means something.
      Its just the way I like to see the world.
      I guess that’s postmodern.

      So somebody tell me again what SoB has got to do with Wendys sexual ID?
      nothing.
      we just like to come to some conclusions that please us and the way we see the world.

    2. Cultural theory and political theory share an interesting tendency to posit language as the key determinant of the formation of cultural identities, which are both subject of and consequences of the cultural process. The latter being the subject of the first. A new formality appears with the introduction of the word ‘culture’ and a new form of discourse emerges, as the political theorist Jacques Derrida shows with his conception of culture as ‘social construction’. This conception of culture, according to the French cultural theorist Michel Foucault, is a ‘deliberate creation of social reality’.

      In the end it is the prenarrative which defines what constitutes modernity, since it is the narrative which makes it ‘enjoyable’. A performance cannot be said to be a postmodern or even a post-post-modern work if the prenarrative is ignored. A composition, like any other composition is an act of representation. It is evident that for Kheshti it is only the post-narrative which makes the work ‘enjoyable’.

      1. “A composition, like any other composition is an act of representation.”
        yes, but what the composition represents is debatable.

        especially in this case, as these are Wendy Carloses interpretations of bach compositions and not her completely original and amazing works like Beauty in the Beast. πŸ˜‰

        since you mention Foucault …
        so you agree its about sexus?
        foucault is a little like freud, in the end its always about sex. meh.

        1. btw. I like what she did do Scarlatti much more than the Bach pieces.
          I knew Bach before, but she introduced me to Scarlatti. πŸ™‚
          it modulates nicely from here to there …
          (insert over-interpretations here) πŸ˜‰

  2. Re: Why is this album not available on YT?

    Most likely, copyright control. Carols keeps a tight rein on her recordings. Can’t say that I blame her. If you had put the kind of effort she has into her work, would you want it available to any-and-everyone at a crappy 128 kbps?

    Re: gustaf’s observations

    I’ll need to read the book first before I delve into the points made here, for context.

    Re: Carlos’s original score for a Clockwork Orange: seconded! Astounding work. Seek it out if you can, Timesteps is a mindblowingly intense piece of serious music composition, and still sounds state of the art even today, many decades later.

    Full disclosure: I was fourteen (!) years old when SOB came out. I still remember being parked in front of our GE console stereo & record player, playing it for the first time, sitting cross-legged between the speakers, jaw scraping the floor as cut after cut completely rewired my brain. Wore out the vinyl, and another copy after that. For better or worse, I’ve never been the same since. myxprojekt dot com.

  3. The full version of “Timesteps” is still one of the Top 5 expressions of what a modular can really do, in the right hands. Its a non-chemical acid trip. I wish Wendy’s work was still openly available. I own most of it and no one else quite hits that plateau.

  4. From the book blurb, this sounds more like an academic paper than something that a musician would want to read. Personally, I found “Secrets of Synthesis” by Carlos quite enlightening.

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