Review Summary: A chilling and diverse collection of compositions, set to stir a sense of the old 'ultraviolence'.
I have to be honest, and admit that I know little about classical music, and even less about electronic/synthesized music. All I’m capable of telling you here today is that with an open mind – without preoccupations with genre or comparison – I sat down with an old cassette recording of Wendy Carlos’ aural accompaniment to A Clockwork Orange, and my ears simply loved me for it.
Half the time I didn’t quite know what in the world was playing, but that didn’t matter; what Wendy Carlos has gathered here is a collection of tracks which succeed in evoking a myriad of emotions, just as the classic film of the same name managed on the big screen. It is the sheer diversity of styles on the album which sprays the listening mind with too many moods and sentiments to bear.
The most identifiable of the composers here is Beethoven, represented on four tracks, (which Carlos has appropriated, with the help of a Moog synthesizer). These fill the record with a large dose of majesty, and the album exists on a grand auditory scale as a result. Other classical pieces to be found are the works of Edward Elgar, (who contributes a series of orchestral marches), and Gioachino Rossini, whose opera ‘William Tell’ has been picked apart, with its famous overture providing a playful middle section for the album.
Amid these pieces, there are a number of pop ditties to be found, with an almost cultural contrast being made. It is pleasing to the senses to hear Gene Kelly’s ‘Singin’ In The Rain’ upon the conclusion of a Beethoven epic, and the same may be said for the inclusion of Erika Eigen’s ‘I Want To Marry A Lighthouse Keeper’. Nevertheless, there is a deep sense that these tracks are included to act as more than mere pop relief; the juxtaposition creates some form of sinister atmosphere, which is built upon in the highlights of the work…
The Walter Carlos compositions found on this record, (Walter being the birth name given to Wendy. I know, what’s doing there"), without doubt represent its greatest triumph. There are three to be found: ‘Timesteps’, (on this album an excerpt is found, an extended recording exists elsewhere), is an electronic soundscape, with the focal focus of unsettling the audience. It achieves this to no end, particularly the extended, proper version. ‘Theme From A Clockwork Orange’ is another; its origins I am unaware of, but I believe it to be a Beethoven influenced (or written) piece, subjected to the Moog treatment. While it still exudes the splendour of a classical piece, the synthesized nature of the track certainly creates a chilling atmosphere, much the same as the film. The most affecting track on the album is the opener, ‘The Funeral of Queen Mary’; it is shocking to recognise just how forbidding an electronic tune may be. It quite honestly is a magical piece of music.
Even if you don’t have much of a desire to explore the world of classical or electronic music, any person with an ear or two, who is fond of pleasing sounds which strike an emotional chord within them, will be moved by this album.