Remembering the shock of “Switched-On Bach,” 50 years later

Posted on: May 24, 2018

“Referencing its electronic genesis, Switched-On Bach was released by Columbia Masterworks in 1968,” writes J.T. Hall in Wednesday’s (5/23) Syracuse New Times (NY). Using the Moog synthesizer and “consisting of 10 selections, including the ‘Brandenburg Concerto No. 3,’ … ‘Air on a G String’ and other inventions, preludes and fugues, Switched-On Bach dropped like a bunker buster on the world of classical music…. The Moog synthesizer of 1968 was monophonic, capable of producing only one note at a time, requiring each voice … to be taped individually [and it] was colicky, frequently drifting off pitch and requiring constant readjustment…. The public glommed onto the novel approach … vaulting Switched-On Bach quickly to the top of the classical charts… Switched-On Bach immediately cast a long shadow, influencing a legion of composers and performers, especially in popular music…. In 1971 [Wendy] Carlos [used] the synthesizer on the soundtrack for … A Clockwork Orange, performing original music and works by Beethoven and Rossini…. Fifty years after its release date, Switched-On Bach … presents itself as fresh and as innovative as ever.… Would Bach … have dismissed this instrument as irrelevant … or would he have embraced the protean keyboard as a potent, expressive option?”

Posted May 24, 2018