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Beauty in the Beast [Enhanced, Original recording reissued]

Wendy Carlos Audio CD

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Product details

1. Incantation
2. Beauty In The Beast
3. Poem For Bali
4. Just Imaginings
5. That's Just It
6. Yusae-Aisae
7. C'est Afrique
8. Woman's Song

Product Description


From the roar of Tibetan horns and the clangour of metal percussion that opens Beauty in the Beast, Wendy Carlos signalled a new direction in 1986. Beauty in the Beast is Carlos's magnum opus, an album that should have established the synthesiser's role in the new global music landscape. More than that, it should have established Carlos as a composer and not just a Switched-On Bach jukebox. But not too many people were listening. Re-released now after 14 years, Beauty in the Beast has lost none of its power. Carlos is profound and poignant, dissonant and disarming on Beauty as she fuses a global orchestra from her synthesisers. "Poem for Bali" is the centrepiece of the album, an episodic, 17-minute excursion as Carlos orchestrates the sounds and rhythms of a digital gamelan orchestra. In addition to replicating the metallophones, gongs and flutes of the traditional gamelan, she creates her own hybrid sound designs, giving this work a surreal and sometimes harrowing tone, like a dream bent through funhouse mirrors. But then there are pieces like "A Woman's Song", based on a Balkan melody. The title track merges nightmare landscapes and a crazed carnival calliope with a haunting theme that sounds like a lament for the end of the world. Beauty in the Beast is an essential recording of both modern composition and synthesis and Carlos should plug into this circuit again. --John Diliberto

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  14 reviews
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars un-well-tempered 9 Mar 2001
By D Darkman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Since J.S.Bach pushed "well-tempered" music on us (and thus spurred the development of music that could flexibly shift from key to key) it's almost impossible for us to hear modern compositions that are not well-tempered. W. Carlos has done that here, giving us a hint of the sort of unusual tunings you might hear in non-western music. I must admit, it takes a bit of getting used to, and at first this album might sound strangely sour -- because we're so used to hearing well-tempered music, which is actually just slightly "off" from the natural tuning. After a while, non-tempered music seems comfortable.
However, Carlos composes music in the different tunings that shifts and adjusts its keys as modern western music does -- thus producing terrible clashes with the un-tempered scales. Traditional non-tempered music just doesn't shift keys this widely, for that very reason. So, it's a great experiment, but there are moments that aren't true to the intrinsic nature of non-tempered music.
FYI here's a quick lesson on tempered music: To move a note up an octave, double the frequency of the sound. To move a note up a fifth, multiply the frequency of the sound by 1.5 (one and a half.) Now, if you move up 12 fifths -- which should be equal to 7 octaves -- the math doesn't work out! You don't end up on quite the same note since (2)**7 = 128 but (1.5)**12 = 129.7!!! A sequence of fifths ends up a tiny, tiny bit sharp compared to a sequence of octaves, about 1% "off"!!! So, to make both these sequences jibe, one flattens the notes evenly such that fifths are just a hair flat. The result doesn't sound as natural, but it makes every scale "well-tempered".
There are actually many, many different cultures that have developed non-tempered music in many different ways, e.g. in arabic lands their scales and music can incorporate quarter-tones that are utterly missing from western music. I've heard synagogue chanting that used a different tuning. Some recordings of gregorian chants are sung with non-tempered tuning.
So this explains how Carlos was playing around when she composed this album. It's somewhat flawed, because she roves from key to key in western style, and goes very far up and down the scale in a way that hilights the flaws of non-tempered music, but it's a marvelous experiment, and something everyone should hear and listen to... and understand!
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Beast is Back 12 Feb 2001
By Solo Goodspeed - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Wendy Carlos, electronic musician and composer, has managed to enjoy a reasonable amount of success as an overall unclassifiable artist probably because of her chamelion-like explorations of a wide range of styles: From electro-baroque (Switched-On Bach), to film soundtracks (A Clockwork Orange, Tron), to nature/electro/ambience (Sonic Seasonings), her compositional process/craft has indeed shown flexibility - yet we as listeners and admirers could not help but wonder who the true Wendy was, as a musical identity, under the shifting surface.
I think we got a hint at it in the piece "Timesteps" from the Clockwork Orange soundtrack, and on this 1986 release / 2001 re-release that identity is fully realized. On the surface, at first listening, much of it sounds like world music: Tibetan Incantations, Balinese Gamelan ceremonies, African tribal dances, drifting in and out in a sort of auditory slide show. Yet as she explains in the collection's liner notes, these world images were used as more of a treatment, a way to encapsulate and focus tunings and textures she had just started to work with in her own abstract, intuitive approach to composing. The result is a kaleidoscopic journey, a sumptuous feast for the ears, one which challenges us by clashing dissonant cacophony against sheer melodic beauty - hence the title.
It is ironic that, sometimes, purely electronic music sounds best (is more interesting and exciting) when it is made to sound more primitive and organic. Carlos succeeds at this for the most part, with her use of quarter-tones and percussive sounds, as well as the use of an electrified voice on two of the tracks. She has been criticized for sounding too mechanistic on other works; the pieces contained in this collection should lay those complaints to waste. Here her performances exhibit a flow that could only come from a creative dream state; here we truly are witness to an artist at the peak of her creative powers.
This album came and went so fast back when it was released 15 years ago, I didn't have a chance to score it on CD when I got my first player. Its rerelease is indeed a cause for celebration. Much appreciation is owed to the efforts of East Side Digital on behalf of the Wendy Carlos collection. If there were any one album that best represented this pioneer recording artist, Beauty in the Beast is this listener's choice.
Best heard in the dark, during a rainstorm ......
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The end of a long period of Tragic Unavailability 3 Jan 2002
By D. W WISELY - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
I have proudly owned a copy of the first release of this CD all these years. It is the best example I know of an utterly brilliant recording being tragically unavailable. As other reviewers note, the tuning does sound strange at first, but then one realizes how quickly one not only adjusts to it, but starts to hear it as natural and normal.
Do yourself a favor and get this CD now. It is indispensable.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Weird, but it works 13 Jun 2005
By Laura Halliday - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
You've never heard anything quite like Beauty in the Beast, and it *does* take some getting used to. But once you have, it's a must-have record.

There are a variety of musical styles on BitB, ranging from african-sounding percussion to martian jazz. The title cut is just plain haunting.

The supplementary files include an essay on tuning, with audio files as examples. I found these to be very informative, particularly regarding the alpha and beta scales used in the title cut.

It's weird, but it works.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Most Beautiful Music in the World 1 Sep 2001
By "lodger" - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Nonstandard tunings, masterfully used. Gothic, "Bush of Ghosts" feeling. Great instrument modeling, not trying to sound just like acoustic instruments but using attributes of their spectra as part of instrument creation. Uh, it's real pretty. Spooky and balanced.
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