This interview with Wendy Carlos, created by Jeff Bond, appeared in the March 1999 issue of Film Score Monthly. Please note that all (c) are with FSM Magazine and its authors.
A big thank you to Matt Traum, Patchman Music, who helped out deriving the text from the original scanned article.
Wendy Carlos Switches Back On Soundtracks and Revisits Her Premier Score
Interview By Jeff Bond
Wendy Carlos bears the distinction of being one of the few composers ever to work more than once with director Stanley Kubrick (on A Clockwork Orange and The Shining). She also scored another groundbreaking science fiction film, Walt Disney’s Tron, which was the first big-budget production to use computer-generated imagery for most of its special effects.
And Wendy was experimenting with electronic music long before anybody thought it was cool (Switched-on Bach, featuring her electronic performances of Bach favorites became a hit record in the late 1960s), and her arrangements of classical pieces for A Clockwork Orange lent just the right mix of ironic futurism to Kubrick’s icy tale of dehumanization and brutality.
While Carlos has kept a low-profile in film scoring in the past decade or so, her work with Kubrick and her pioneering Tron score remain essential efforts for genre fans. In late 1998 the composer returned to her work on A Clockwork Orange in two new albums; Tales of Heaven and Hell, a riff on some of the musical underpinnings of Kubrick’s dystopian fantasy, and an expanded version of the original soundtrack album.
Wendy spoke to us from her studio in New York, and as you can gather from the ratio of interrogative text to reply below, she’s a pretty easy person to talk to.
Not only is she highly adept at discussing the technical issues inherent in her primarily electronic music, but it turns out she’s as knowledgeable about film score history as the average FSM reader. She even created the cover art for Tales of Heaven and Hell.
RETURN TO ORANGE
JB: Your new album has at least one track related to A Clockwork Orange.
WC: The major track of the new project is very much related to A Clockwork Orange. In fact, the seed of ideas was to try and do something which took as a point of departure the original music that I had done for the Kubrick film so many years ago.
JB: What made you want to go back and revisit A Clockwork Orange?
WC: I was asked about it by a friend of mine who had suggested that my abilities to do certain types of sounds and music would be well-served to catch the attention of the twentysomethings who are too intelligent to be satisfied with formulaic styles nowadays. He said that there are a lot more people out there who would welcome something. So at first I started doing things like acid jazz, and I have a lot of demo tracks that I might get into shape for a project of that kind next year, but in the middle of working on that he said, “Are you aware that Clockwork Orange had turned into the most recent example of what had been happening with things like Rocky Horror Show that were being shown at college campuses around the country, and were popular at midnight screenings?”
Of course I had no idea that was the case. He said that it was so hot right now that a lot of young people knew that score intimately, and that it would be a nice point of departure if you’d enjoy getting involved with that music again. Frankly I had not listened to the music in a couple of decades, and it was kind of a lackluster suggestion to me when I first heard it. But then I started listening to the original albums, and was shocked to see how nicely done they were, and how many rich themes existed that could form the point of departure for a new project.
I started fooling around with ideas and tried to take it into the present so that from an extrapolated future that Kubrick had depicted in the movie, and Burgess had depicted in the novel, it became a not-so-extrapolated version of the future as the present has become. There are a lot of “down” things that were predicted in the movie that have become true. So I thought let’s take a dark, deep, brooding slant at that, and it just grew and grew and became like any musical form, something that I can sink my teeth into a major track. And I realized that I had done exactly what we had set out to do, which was to do a take-off of Clockwork Orange, and we’re calling it “Clockwork Black.” It’s even deeper and darker than the original was.
JB: Did this serve as the nucleus of the album, then, and you worked out the rest of it around the “Clockwork Black” piece?
WC: I don’t want to put it quite so simplistically. It’s funny; when you’re doing things creatively, you can be open to all manner of ideas, and any one of them can be turned off immediately by someone saying, “Oh, that…” It’s a fragile moment, and I don’t honestly know all the steps that went on in my head and even external to me that influenced it. Clearly the whole album isn’t “Clockwork Black”; the album will be an overview or a superset and “Clockwork Black” will be the highlight track. It forms a suite now, a fairly long suite, and I’ve tried to put it in an order and consciously, deliberately filled in gaps and led one movement into another so that it’s really all of a piece, with the longest movement being “Clockwork Black”- that’s the only one that really refers to the Clockwork Orange music.
JB: I like the “City of Temptation” piece, also.
WC: That also originated with some filmic ideas for some people I knew, and it seemed to be another appropriate thing to put into a form that would fit this project. The whole project is extremely cinemagraphic. Everybody kept telling me, “Hey, did you know that this would work really well as the soundtrack of a movie?” And I’d say, “Really? No kidding!”
Of course. I’m not kidding anyone. It is cinematic, although in another funny way I approach all music as holistic. I think most of the barriers that have been erected, like “in classical music you play the notes that are written; in jazz you never play written notes, you improvise”— these things are all pretty much B.S. I mean, why should these compartments exist? I’ve always had the idea that I should try to make roads between these isolated things and prove that they’re all part of music.
I don’t see that a good piece of music in general that has a melodramatic or dramatic or programmatic or implied programmatic scenario wouldn’t work as a film score, or even as a mood piece alone. In fact that’s been done for a lot of films that take pre-existing music as part of their scores; look at the Samuel Barber Adagio for Strings, which started life as the slow movement of a string quartet. What an unpromising idea for a piece of background music for a film, except look how many people have used it. Platoon comes to mind, but it’s been used in quite a few films.
JB: How did you work with the orchestra on this album? Is everything sampled or did you record any live instruments?
WC: This is one time where I was able to get most of the orchestral sounds that I have been wanting to have— this thing [synthesizers] which I’ve said in interviews is like an orchestra in a box, to actually make it bear fruit. The funny thing is that it also is the project that has the most non-sampled anything in it; it’s live recordings. There’s a lot of live performances— the textural elements, all of the singing is done that way. Some of the singing backups are done with samples, but by now synthesizer voices are very flexible voice-type patches, and I have the ability to turn out a decent, convincing replica of human voices singing— men’s and women’s voices blended and boys’ choir and all that stuff. I’ve noticed now some companies are turning out sampled records that try and do that, but the real trick is to get the synthesizer that runs it all to be responsive to your controllers, so that you can actually make phrases that sound very dull and sampled. If you do a lot of old-fashioned synthesizer tricks you can get the machine to respond very flexibly and musically, and it was at that point that I stopped fighting samplers and started to use them because they had gotten good enough to be usable, in my opinion.
JB: What about when you actually have people speaking?
WC: They’re real. They’re highly processed, in many cases. The priest who chants and you hear the whispering, that took a long time to cobble together out of recordings that he had done live. He was one of the singers who had done some of the melodic passages who I got to know, and when I got to that spot in the “Clockwork Black” that seemed like it was becoming mock-liturgical, I thought of him and asked if he could do some Latin text from the Mass of the Dead for me, and he went “Oh, boy, could I!”
It’s nice because it has the enthusiasm of real performers interacting, and he heard some of the background parts I was going to put in and reacted to that. It’s the stuff that you get in live performance that I’ve always been sorry to miss in the electronic media, as much as I’ve learned a lot of different ways to make up for it. But ideally you’d like a medium that is as sharp as the electronic medium has gotten, where you can do any sound you can think of with as much nuance as you have patience for, but to still keep the live spirit and gesture and spontaneity of live performers.
JB: Are the lyrics printed in the booklet traditional or original?
WC: Some of them are original that I cobbled together myself. I don’t claim to be the world’s greatest lyricist, but I was familiar with enough operas and oratorios and hearing liturgical music from my childhood that I knew the kind of mood I was looking for. While I had asked a few other friends who were better wordsmiths to come up with things, they weren’t doing the kinds of things that I needed for the melodrama.
So I just hacked at things myself and got the sounds, the fricatives and words that, if you can’t understand them at that moment, are very musical. They form sound effects and they are musical gestures, and I used them as that. I was mildly amused to see other people doing that right now, too. There are several records that people have brought to my attention where there are non-word words used as text. I was trying to write music that was definitely cinemagraphic, that was definitely not classical, for the intelligent young people to perhaps pick up on… nothing more pretentious than that.
WORKING WITH STANLEY
JB: How did you get involved with A Clockwork Orange originally?
WC: Well, we [Carlos and longtime producer Rachel Elkind] were Kubrick fans all along, and we had been invited by two different Hollywood people to score some science-fiction movies right after Switched-on Bach came out. One of them was Marooned, the Gregory Peck film, which ended up with no soundtrack. The producers and director decided that maybe they were wrong to put any music in, and so they told us that they’d changed their minds: while they loved what we were doing, they went with a strictly sound-effects score.
JB: That’s funny because Marooned has sort of fallen into the public domain and it’s been repackaged with at least one different title, something like Space Travelers. In order to cover that up, there’s a different title sequence that uses electronic music.
WC: That’s very strange. We had been disappointed in that project and we had gotten jazzed up to do a couple of these, and we finally wound up talking with someone who had a close connection to Stanley Kubrick’s lawyer. We suddenly got an invitation to fly to London and quite a few people behind the scenes helped pull it together.J
B: How was Kubrick to work with?
WC: I got to know him quite well; don’t forget I also met him again when I was involved with The Shining, although that didn’t produce much of a film score.
I like Stanley. He’s just a very likable person to me; he’s a former New Yorker and I like New York— that’s why I’m situated here. I’m somewhat of an intellectual snob; I hate to be, but I like people who make me laugh and give me things that make me think deeply, and who take ideas that I have and twist them around and come up with other variations. I kind of get off on that; I’m a puzzle solver, and he’s a puzzle person, and he’s very open. You can ask him anything, and I asked him a whole ton of tech questions about the cinematography because I’m sort of a frustrated cinematographer myself, and he talked about everything.
We go along very well; it’s just that unfortunately he works alone in London without a lot of feedback; he doesn’t have a lot of people who are willing to say no to him, and I think that’s not been the healthiest environment for him. I would say that about any artist, and I’ve told him this to his face. I think that’s why The Shining was a less productive venture for us. However, it was a lot of fun and I enjoyed the time with him; we had many long phone chats when he was just getting up and I was just going to bed; it was a pleasurable venture in many ways.
I just now had the pleasure of going back and getting some of the master tapes, and I found a few cues that had never been out that we put on the restored Clockwork Orange CD. You couldn’t have asked me about Kubrick’s film at a better time because it’s very much in my memory now.
JB: Are these cues that were in the film or unused cues?
WC: One of these is the “Orange Minuet,” which we had written for the scene in which the woman who has her breasts showing appears on-stage in what looks like a school auditorium. Originally that scene just had a few temp tracks in it, and one of them was done by the people who did “I Want to Marry a Lighthouse Keeper,” in a slightly English, folk music kind of tradition.
We suggested that probably a real minuet in a real minuet style might be a fortuitous thing to put there, and of course I cheated and put 5/8 into the 6/8 meters in the minuet we were writing, but managed to come up with a nice tune. Kubrick’s business manager and several of the other people he was working with fell in love with this minuet and they wanted to put it into the film. Well at that time they had had so many months of listening to the temp track, and you know what happens; they got locked in. It’s very hard not to have that happen to you. He couldn’t bear to part with the music that he had heard ever since they first started editing, so in the end the minuet wouldn’t work in any other scene. They wanted to put it out as a single but they made their apologies and were very sincere. So it was one of those sad things where we wished it had gone into the film but it couldn’t, and there was no room for it on the Warner Bros, album or the CBS release, so the thing sat in a semi-mixed-down state for 22 years.
TWO CLASSIC BLENDS OF SIGHT AND SOUND
There was a cue that was done for another scene which had the same exact thing happen to it. It’s the scene in the prison library: Alex’s fantasies in there were scored with Scheherezade, and we did something much more in the spirit of the thing with parody. When he’s whipping Christ carrying the cross, we used a very Romanesque, kind of Miklos Rozsa thing to the tune of “I Love a Parade,” and then when he starts having the girls by him it was, “I Want a Girl Just Like the Girl That Married Dear Old Dad,” but done in the style of Scheherezade. I don’t know if Stanley even got the joke; he just told us it didn’t sound right to him, that the other things were more fitting of the scene. We tried and he gave us the chance, and in the end still wanted to stay with his temp score— he does that all the time. So those are two tracks that I wanted to have out for years, and in restoring all the other tracks it was fun to pull those out. I think the thing sounds awfully good; some of those masters were done in four-channel surround sound back when we thought the movie was going to be in stereo, and they sound good because they’re master mixes and the tapes are in good shape. It was done before they started using tape that turns to glue, and there was no need to bake it or anything; they sound fine. So I just rebuilt the four-track, had a few tech people come in and help me, and did a careful alignment and it went right into 20-bit converters and sounds very good. Even the bad-sounding tracks aren’t very bad; they’re a whole lot better than anything people have heard until now. So I’m getting a big kick out of this.
JB: Did you run into Kubrick’s temp-track fetish in any other places?
WC: Oh, yeah. We heard it with a lot of things. When we did Clockwork, though, we were able to suggest that we could do alternate versions of the beloved temp track pieces. So the Purcell that he had, which was a very stodgy British performance that was authentic, but fairly routine and dull, turned into this whole title music sequence because he loved all of the sounds that we did. As long as we could satisfy some element like the William Tell, which was my speeded-up silly trick, he was happy. He still had the original thing that he was secure with, but he also had these neat new sounds, so he was getting his cake and eating it too.
It was only when we had to change the musical themes like the two cues that were dropped that these things didn’t get used. And of course I’ve heard the legendary story of the 2001 score that Alex North did, and Alex North is a fine composer and of course that’s been released now on Jerry Goldsmith’s performance; it would have made it a very different picture.
JB: It would have made it a great science fiction movie, but I think he was making more of a postmodern thing.
WC: In a funny way, not having the music makes the picture cut loose and float free as its own thing, but if we had been used to it, I don’t think we would have been disturbed by it [North’s score], because it was clearly not anything hackneyed— it was not your usual sci-fi cliches. In fact he cobbled together some of his material later on when he did Dragonslayer, and some of it is very effective there. If you played the two CDs side by side you can hear the theme is the same.
JB: Why don’t you do more movies?
WC: Well I’ve scarcely made my livelihood in film things; I almost never pursue film. I have friends who are always trying to get me on another film and saying this thing or that thing would work great in a film, and I’m saying okay, I like the process, it’s another discipline, but if you’ll excuse the pretentiousness of this comment. I’m a little more like Aaron Copland. I make my own art music and it is whatever it is. It can be aimed in directions, like the “Clockwork Black” was definitely influenced by other people’s comments, but usually I don’t do films until people approach me and that’s what’s always happened: other people act as connectors to get me on film scores.
I just finished this film that was done with people we knew who were doing a small film, and they were frightened I’d be insulted if they asked me about it— and I said no, as a matter of fact. The last two projects I worked on were for some European people whose films never saw the light of day and the projects folded.
People don’t know that I’ve worked on other film scores, but I was itchy to do it again. There’s something nice about the formality. It’s discipline; you have a structure to work with, and I guess it’s Igor Stravinsky’s comment, “I like exact specifications.” He said that when somebody asked him why he writes so many ballets and doesn’t he find it restrictive? And the answer is no.
I guess there are crazies out there who think, “Oh, no, my creativity must be unbounded,” but that’s not how it works in the real world. I like collaborating with people, I always have, and I welcome any chance to do it. Usually it doesn’t happen so I do my own projects with my own people like the Tales of Heaven and Hell. But I would love to see that used in some kind of film project, and I’ve been told already that some people are interested in it for another film project. I can see where it would work.
WRITING ‘TRONIC MUSIC
JB: How did you get involved in Tron?
WC: Disney’s project was being put together under the auspices of some animators from Boston who had originally done the Animal Olympics, which got lost on the public when we backed out of the Russian Olympic Games in 1980. The people there included somebody who was close to the director and who knew my music, and they approached me to do the subterranean world inside the computer. And I told them that honestly I wasn’t interested in doing just electronic music, that I would like to hybrid the whole score with orchestra. They said, “Oh, you can write for orchestra too?” I bristled slightly and said sure, what do you think my training is?
So it was kind of like an etude, a study piece for me, and it turned out to be tightly specified by them—there wasn’t a lot of elbow room, and that made it fun. It was a chance to work with a big orchestra and a fairly big electronic ensemble and wed the two together before synths had gotten to the stage where they could be used in the same room with the orchestra, being played along with, like the way Jerry Goldsmith and a lot of others do now. This was before the DX7 was out, when it was still a clumsy device to have there; it was unpredictable and unstable, so we did it in the studio.
They approached us and we flew us out to Los Angeles and we did the orchestra in England because wanted to use the same people who had been involved with my music for Kubrick’s The Shining which did not get used, because by then he’d fallen in love with other temp tracks.
JB: Was Tron the first time you really got involved with synchronizing music to action?
WC: No, there was some of that in Clockwork Orange and in some student films that I had done when I was coming out of graduate school. In the ’70s we would occasionally do Unicef films for a filmmaker in town here who was a good friend. It’s kind of straightforward; it can be a nuisance at times, and nowadays it’s become almost automated. There’s very little you have to think about. That’s the reason I did the Wounding score, because I wanted to get a slave driver and lock everything up to within 1/44 thousandth of a second and just spin along and see what that was like, and I enjoy the process.
JB: There’s a video game of Tron which uses your music. Was that part of the original design of your score, that it would have these signal-like themes that could be used in that context?
WC: No. I produced a bunch of tapes for them that I was told were only to be used for the film mix. About five or six months later we got a call from a New Yorker who was doing a novelization of Tron, and he said some of his novel was going to be made into a sound recording by Disney, which would be a dramatization like old-fashioned radio, with sound effects and music, and they went back and used my two inch tapes and mixed down sections and put them in synch with the new recordings for a children’s record. The same people who put that together got involved with the computer game industry and extracted some materials for that, and some of which were turned into the usual electronic motifs by the people they hire. The bigger companies usually hire musicians and composers to work with them, and that’s what happened with the Tron game. It was done by legitimate people who knew what they were doing, and they did a pretty nice job.
JB: So they created the music based on your motifs.
WC: They had my scores, they had everything, and they had the rights to it. We had nothing at all to do with it except that somebody pointed out that there was a Tron game out, and there it was and it was playing all my tunes. But of course as a film composer if you’re shrewd about it, you work in a way that would lend itself to that. You do leitmotifs and you do melodic structures that can be broken apart because you’re going to need to do that yourself when you start writing to the film. A good film score is natural fodder for things like computer games. Why not?
JB: Have there been any plans to release the score on CD?
WC: The soundtrack is something that I’ve been wanting to have out. It’s been frustrating because I’m proud of the music on that one. The trouble has been that up until now, when I had my contract with CBS, they weren’t interested in it. They became a very apathetic company, like so many large companies, and I had already walked that path and I decided next time, small company.
East Side Digital are very interested in Tron and they told me that they were going to make queries with Disney to bring it out, and that would be lovely. But the reason it hasn’t appeared has nothing to do with me. The public has this fanciful idea that the composer controls everything, which is preposterous. We’re just another person among many involved, and often the one with the least power. I hope that there is something reached because a lot of fans on my website continually berate me because I haven’t released Tron, and I try to explain to them what’s going on in reality.
JB: That’s a big score with a lot of our readers, too.
WC: Well, I wouldn’t have been able to predict that Sonic Seasonings and Clockwork Orange were going to come out, and I wasn’t even sure when Tales of Heaven and Hell was going to come out. Distribution in this country has become a dicey business at best, and there are a lot of flakes running the industry. A lot of people try to do it on their own; it’s a mom and pop industry and you seldom see the records anywhere. It’s the best of times and the worst of times, I guess.
JB: Tell me about the score you just did.
WC: That hasn’t been released yet. The film has the name The Wounding which is the title of the sci-fi writer Jeff Noon’s play, and it’s a beautiful adaptation. It’s a brooding type of film, placed in an unnamed South Atlantic island that could be the Falklands. It’s a military base that has wound down; the war is no longer going on, the enemy is never named, and the people are mostly Britain-based soldiers and young men and women who have come from the mainland and who are going out of their trees because there’s nothing to do on this island. People have sheep and farm and there’s a small center of town. The main general is going out of his mind because he has a brain tumor and he’s kind of the most sympathetic character.
It’s filled with antiheroes among the disenfranchised youth of the twenty-somethings, and it’s a very sad film. It’s one that leaves you with a mood as you leave the theater, and it was an evocative thing to get inside their heads. I was given fairly large carte blanche to do some horrific things and also some inside-psyche mood paintings, and that’s what the film became.
It was a good experience; the sounds came out really well, we had a nice ensemble and some live singers like on Tales of Heaven and Hell. I like the score a lot, and when the film finally comes out, we’ll put out the soundtrack album. My heart is in this field, and I have kept my foot in the door to some extent, and now that I’ve done this film I think to myself that I might like to take another one on in a year or so. It’s a lovely medium and I can’t see any reason for the snobbery that’s been directed towards it.
MAKING THE WORLD SAFE FOR SYNTHS – THREE ALBUMS BY WENDY CARLOS
A Clockwork Orange * * * *
- East Side Digital ESD 81362
- 10 tracks – 46:56
Stanley Kubrick established his modus operandi for scoring his films on 2001 with a hodgepodge of classical and modern concert works, and A Clockwork Orange Initially threatened to be more of the same before a happy collaboration with electronic composer Wendy Carlos ensued. Carlos had already made a name for herself doing brittle, futuristic-sounding electronic arrangements of classical music in her album Switched-on Bach, and the approach was perfect for the brutal ironies of A Clockwork Orange, which stood her airy synthesized compositions along-side more heavy-handed orchestral cues like “The Thieving Magpie.” This new CD, touted as “Wendy Carlos’s Complete Original Score,” contains all of the composer’s electronic music from the classic film, including a good deal of newly mixed unused music.
Carlos’s music is at its most effective in either abstract or sick-puppy veins. The opening track (“Timesteps,” heard here in its complete form) is a wonderfully opaque collage of sweeping electronic soundscapes; processed voices, ticking clocks and cricket chirps; and primitivistic percussion. The “March from A Clockwork Orange” twists the popular/pious ideology of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony (finale) into something sarcastically sincere— it’s a celebration of humanity that replaces the human voice with the output of a vocoder (an electronic device which reads then replicates sounds such as singing).
“Country Lane” melds Rossini, the Dies Irae, and “Singin’ in the Rain” into a disturbingly spry two-step. Yet, while Carlos’s versions of “La Cazza Ladra,” the scherzo from Beethoven’s Ninth, and even her original “Orange Minuet” may move in the same sonic directions as the other tracks, the relatively literal-minded interpretations do little to continue the black-hearted fun. This odd fluctuation keeps the album from establishing a unified tone, but it’s easy to see why Kubrick was so attracted to their ambiguity.
Carlos is a true craftswoman when in comes to the technicalities of her music, and it’s great to hear a little-represented style of electronic music used for film. The sound is terrific and the liner notes are quite informative (if sometimes silly). —Doug Adams
Tales Of Heaven and Hell * * *
- East Side Digital ESD 8135
- 27 tracks – 57:29
Tales of Heaven and Hell marks Carlos’s return to album form, and is part of several projects (including the newly expanded soundtrack album, above) in which the composer returns to her material from A Clockwork Orange and puts it in a new light. This hour-long album consists of seven lengthy tracks running between three and 17 minutes in length, in which the composer conjures up supernatural environments using electronic tones, surprisingly catchy rhythms and sampled vocal effects— blending hellish, demonic recitations with soothing, monkish Gregorian chants and eerie, wailing melodies.
“Clockwork Black” is an elaborate piece opening with the crashing sounds of thunder, moaning voices and a sampled chorus saying things like “we are in hell” and “we are the damned” before subtly referencing the classical material from A Clockwork Orange. “City of Temptation” is more of a guesting, dark journey, albeit with a highly involving rhythmic development and loads of percussive effects. Carlos’s “scary” effects (there’s actually a warning on the cover about this) vary from mildly chill-inducing to engagingly silly (some of the sampled vocal effects put me more in mind of the ’70s hit “Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft” by The Carpenters), but the album as a whole is a surprisingly good listen that lies somewhere between new age and an interesting movie soundtrack. —Jeff Bond
Sonic Seasonings * *
- East Side Digital ESD 81372
- Disc One: 3 tracks – 65:22, Disc Two: 4 tracks – 60:01
To film music fans, Carlos may always be known as the composer of a handful of film scores, but back before synthesizers were as commonplace as indoor plumbing, she was one of a few responsible for making people take them seriously. Way back then, operating synthesizers was like running a small factory, and Carlos and her longtime producer Rachel Elkind were among the few capable of coaxing genuine artistry out of the finicky gadgets. Today, her Switched-on Bach album has become standard listening in music history classes.
The original 1972 album of Sonic Seasonings represented the Wendy Carlos of the concept album rather than film world. Heard here in a digitally spiffed up form, Seasonings is more a grandmother of those “Sounds of Nature” tapes guaranteed to provide hours of peaceful sleep for over-stressed city dwellers. Four seasonally driven tracks (each hovering around the 20-minute mark) allow scant musical ideas (all electronically generated, of course) to lap up around the edges of “Musique Anti-Concrete” recordings: tweeting birds, pouring rain, rolling waves, crackling fires, and mooing cows (yes, really). The remaining three tracks present a rejected attempt at the “Winter” movement, and two more nature-inspired tracks: “Aurora Borealis” and “Midnight Sun.”
As always, Carlos’s work is expertly produced and some of the effects are genuinely effective, such as the panning stereo throbs in “Summer.” But the majority of the effort here has gone into accurately reproducing natural sounds, leading one to search out a “God is my co-producer” credit. If you’ve got 125 minutes to kill and want to experience the natural world… go outside. Failing that, check out this album. — D.A.