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Wendy Carlos

Wendy Carlos (born November 14, 1939) is an American composer and electronic musician. She gained fame for playing on synthesizers, which was a new instrument at the time. Though her early albums were interpretations of the works of classical composers, she later released original compositions.

Personal life

Carlos was born in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Carlos’s musical education began when she started playing the piano at the age of six. Her formal education included Brown University where she studied music and physics, and Columbia University where she earned a master’s degree in music. At Columbia, Carlos was a student of Vladimir Ussachevsky, a pioneer in electronic music.

After graduation, she met Robert Moog and was one of his earliest customers, providing feedback for his further development of the Moog synthesizer. Around 1966, Carlos met Rachel Elkind who produced her early albums. Carlos has lived in New York since 1962.

Her first six recordings were released under the name “Walter Carlos”. In 1972, Carlos underwent sex reassignment surgery. The last release to be credited to ‘Walter’ Carlos was By Request (1975). The first release credited to her as Wendy Carlos was Switched-On Brandenburgs (1979).

Carlos’s first public appearance after her gender transition was in an interview in the May 1979 issue of Playboy magazine, a decision she would come to regret because of the unwelcome publicity it brought to her personal life. On her official site, her transition is discussed in an essay stating that she values her privacy on the subject.

In 1998, Carlos sued the songwriter/artist Momus for $22 million for his satirical song “Walter Carlos” (which appeared on the album The Little Red Songbook), which suggested that if Wendy could go back in time she could marry Walter. The case was settled out of court, with Momus agreeing to remove it from the CD and owing $30,000 in legal fees.

Carlos is also an accomplished solar eclipse photographer.


(Albums released during years 1968–1975 were originally released under name “Walter Carlos”. Later albums and all re-issues have been released under the name “Wendy Carlos”.)

  • Switched-On Bach (1968)
  • The Well-Tempered Synthesizer (1969)
  • Sonic Seasonings (1972)
  • A Clockwork Orange (soundtrack) (1972)
  • Wendy Carlos’ Clockwork Orange, (1972), all the music composed or realised for the film.
  • Switched-on Bach II (1974)
  • By Request (1975)
  • Switched-On Brandenburgs (1979)
  • The Shining: Score Selections (soundtrack) (1980)
  • Tron (soundtrack) (1982)
  • Digital Moonscapes (1984)
  • Beauty In the Beast (1986)
  • Land of the Midnight Sun (1986 composition, released on the 1998 Sonic Seasonings reissue)
  • Secrets of Synthesis (1987)
  • Peter and The Wolf (1988) (with “Weird Al” Yankovic)
  • Switched-On Bach 2000 (1992)
  • Tales of Heaven and Hell (1998): (contains a track using 15 equal temperament)
  • Switched-On Boxed Set (1999)
  • Rediscovering Lost Scores, Volume 1 (2005) (The Shining, A Clockwork Orange, UNICEF)
  • Rediscovering Lost Scores, Volume 2 (2005) (The Shining, Tron, Split Second, Woundings)

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