Beauty in the Beast --ESD 81552
== Finally available again! ==
(Optimum 20-bit Hi-D transfers from the original 1986 master mixes, cleaned and tweaked to a fare-thee-well. The best this album has ever sounded.) On this 1986 recording, Wendy Carlos breaks through the bounds imposed by traditional orchestra and electronic sounds as well as conventional tuning scales. Beauty In The Beast derives from basic music forms a new music which defies categorization, as it allows one's imagination and emotions to run free, unfettered by any preconceptions. As some listeners have put it, this is like a "soundtrack to a dream," just ready to be experienced! (Read this colorful, in-depth interview with Wendy by Conor Freff Cochran about Beauty in the Beast, which originally appeared in Electronic Musician magazine.) "I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it."
--Vincent van Gogh
Beauty in the Beast
= Tracks =
Beauty In The Beast (3:57)
Poem For Bali (17:40)
Just Imaginings (12:07)
That's Just It (3:36)
C'est Afrique (6:13)
A Woman's Song (4:09)
Produced by Wendy Carlos for
All selections BMI
(Top of the Page)
Did you ever notice that there's beauty in
every beast of the earth, a quality of essential gorgeousness, just
below each fearsome exterior? Consider the carnivorous jungle tigers,
the majestic elephants of the savanna, or the white-plumed birds on
the cover of this album. All are decidedly "beastly," and yet all are
in truth exquisitely beautiful.
A similar duality is evident in other worlds apart from nature's. A clattering Model-T Ford is one example, and a complex digital synthesizer as was used for all of this album is another. The "familiar-yet-strange" timbres which you will hear have sort of a beautiful plus beastly quality, and the same is certainly true of all the unfamiliar tunings you'll encounter herein. Thanks to such reasons and others, Beauty In The Beast is among the most unusual music I've ever heard. Yet I wrote it! How can this be?
To begin with, this has been the most exciting musical project in my life. The year and a half to compose and record this music (following the two years before that, laying the essential groundwork with Digital Moonscapes) have produced results far beyond my ideals when I set out to avoid the usual constraints imposed by conventions of scale, and tuning, not to mention instrumentation.
It makes sense: if you put aside the traditional equally tempered scale, and also standard acoustic and electronic sounds and timbres, and assemble a composition and performance instrument based on anything else, that alone guarantees unique results. If you are really lucky you will find yourself located at the right time and place to have an instrument capable of producing (to say it simply) whatever the human ear and brain like best. All theoretical concerns remain secondary to that pragmatic, humanly rewarding goal.
You now hold in your hands an album of calculated guesses as to the music of the perhaps not too distant future, an encomium to all past and present earthly made (but no longer earthly bound) music. A music which at once terrifies with its beastly strangeness, while it seduces with a never-before-heard beauty. Enjoy!
-- In Himalayan monasteries monks
gather in solemn dignity to bestow upon God a sound so awesome that
no mere mortal can be left unmoved. In this fantasy, prayer-wheels
and Tibetan bells are combined with subharmonic voices and an
orchestra of drums, cymbals, hand bells. shawms, and several kinds of
horns, all in the tritone rich authentic scales from Bhutan and
2: Beauty In The Beast -- The title cut of the album, this compact piece whimsically blends two quasi grotesque ideas with a romantic theme in best "Ballet Russe" style. The new scales used for all of this are quite odd the first heard called Beta, splits the perfect fourth into two equal parts (actually eight equal steps of nearly 64 cents each ), the second, Alpha, does the same to the minor third (four equal steps for 78 c. each). While both scales have nearly perfect triads two remarkable coincidences!), neither can build a standard diatonic scale, and so the melodic motion is strange and exotic. The two forces, beast and beauty, shift back and forth, and things are never quite what they seem.
3: Poem For Bali -- While in Bali in 1983 (chasing a total solar eclipse) I fell in love with this island, its culture and people and their love of the arts. (Note that the cover painting is from Bali. ) I still cannot get the sound of its music from my ears. "Poem for Bali" is an homage written to express these emotions. The ten-section continuous work is composed wholly in the Pelog and Slendro tunings of their rich gamelan tradition, but filtered through my decidedly western point of view. Section four is based on the Barong dance; I performed it on a close replica of their Gamelan ensemble. Section nine is really a mini-concerto for such an ensemble, accompanied by a western symphonic orchestra (sadly this can't be done in the acoustic world due to tuning conflicts). The rest paints an impressionistic canvas of moods amenable to this magical island.
4: Just Imaginings -- How exciting that the computer controlled digital synthesizer age has arrived. We can finally "have our cake and eat it, too!" In the past we had to choose between perfect tuning (a just intonation), or totally free modulations (an equal-step temperament), and most of us chose the latter. This composition is all perfectly tuned in a "Super-Just" scale I call the Harmonic Scale, which continues past the 5th harmonic of just, all the way to the (prime) 19th harmonic! But then, in a 144 notes per octave slight of hand, it modulates all over, including two circles of fifths, at the main climaxes to section one (Kaleidoscope) and three (Dreams). Section two (Chroma) combines polytonal clusters of "super-just" chords with a busier foreground. This contrasts with the more upbeat first, and stream of consciousness third sections, both etudes in contrast and surprise.
5: That's Just It and 6: Yusae-Aisae -- These two closely-related pieces, written immediately before "Just Imaginings," are also in the Harmonic Scale. They are my studies in learning how to control the Harmonic Scale, before I began to modulate with it. Both also explore some of the more unusual melodic intervals of this scale, which while more acoustically satisfying to the human ear than the arbitrary intervals of equal temperament, have remained difficult to obtain up until now, and so are seldom heard. That's too bad, because we've really been deprived of all the gorgeous exotic modes and harmonies of tuning in the natural way, instead of the mathematical way we've been tied to these past 300 years, since Papa Bach adopted it as the best available compromise.
The point of departure for "That's Just It" is an imaginary jazz sextet, with solo trumpet and tenor sax. "Yusae-Aisae" conjures a Hollywoodesque Mid-Eastern marketplace. While both pieces use exactly the same tuning, to western ears the slithery arabesques of "That's Just It" may sound peculiar, but the latter quite authentic. I suspect that an arab musician would hold the opposite opinion: the Harmonic Scale is no more an arabic tuning than Chow Mein is from China!
7: C'est Afrique -- I've lucky to visit Africa several times, and find the many cultures and musics of the African people every bit as captivating as those of Bali. This piece is my first attempt to suggest a (tiny) portion of their art. It has four short sections, all in the authentic tunings, which are not too different from our own. There can't be any more rhythmically sophisticated music than African, and that's what these four sections, with their quasi-realistic timbres and extrapolations, are about. (As with the Gamelan sections of "Poem For Bali," they were surprisingly tricky, but also a lot of fun to play!)
8: A Woman's Song -- By combining ideas from several regions we arrive at the elegant final work of BitB. The melody, based on a song by a Bulgarian Shepherdess (the woman of the title), is titled: "Izel je Delyo Hajdutin." To that long-flowing melisma I've added the tambura and dilruba from India (replacing the Bulgarian bagpipes), and an appropriate raga tuning. Western horns and crotales, plus several hybrid timbres round out the orchestration. While no synthesizer is yet any match for Valya Balkanska's electric mezzo soprano (whose performance was included on the Voyager records), the instrumental version here forms an appropriately haunting conclusion for all of our beastly beauties.
I've said it before, in interviews and on
my website (www.wendycarlos.com):
Beauty In The Beast is my
most important album. I don't mean in historic significance, as
Switched-On Bach clearly left the
largest crater I'm likely to impress on the face of music and media.
But that consisted mostly in demonstrating what ought to have been
perfectly apparent for some time: electronic music was a new
medium, not a kind of music. There was good and bad,
human and mechanical, exciting and dull electronic music, the same as
any other music. This remains true today, for better or (too often)
The repertoire we chose on S-O B, sort of a "Bach's Greatest Hits," was both familiar and well-suited to the limits of the early Moog Synthesizer. The pioneering was in the execution, and we didn't do a bad job of it. Even I found myself smiling when remastering those performances for the Switched-On Boxed Set some months ago. Still, my fondness for Beauty is deeper and more personal.
Walt Disney admitted years after completing "Fantasia" how he had been surprised by its lack of success at first release--both the general audience and classical music aficionados were initially unimpressed. He added: "but this was what we ought to have been doing, and I've never been sorry we made it." Beauty in the Beast is what I ought to have been doing: an idea whose time had come. It represents baby steps along a new path, but carefully gone back over many times to hide the stumbles. Happily it holds up remarkably well, band-aids and all. I hope that many of you just discovering it for the first time may agree, once you give it a chance to work some unfamiliar magic on you.
Beauty in the Beast was recorded originally on a customized 16-track 2" (M-56) tape machine, using Dolby, then mixed directly to PCM-F1 digital. For this new edition we began with the original masters, and meticulously fine-tuned, cleaned and optimized each track using Hi-D equipment, as with the other ESD masters in this series. You may rest assured that this is the best these recordings have ever sounded.
Produced & Engineered by Wendy Carlos
Customized GDS & Synergy Digital Synthesizers
216 Vocoder (tracks 1 & 7) by Felix Visser/Synton,
supplied by Shirleigh Moog, customized by Bob Moog
Restored, remastered and graphics by Wendy Carlos
Quark layout and html adaption by Drew Miller
Verance MusiCode support by Gabe Lawrence and Joe Winograd
Hi-D digital audio equipment by Mark of the Unicorn
Audio and graphics Macintosh computer equipment by John Romkey
Originally released in 1986 on Audion SYN 200
Audion album design by Murray Brenman
Cover painting by W. Y. Weca, Ubud BALI
1986 photo of Wendy Carlos by Vernon Smith
Border is a 1K (kilobit) Gallium Arsenide (GaAs)
gate array microchip (photo courtesy of Texas Instruments)
Special thanks to: Larry Fast, Stoney Stockell, John Klett,
Jerry Ptaszynski, and Rob Simonds/ESD.
1986, 2000 Serendip.
All rights reserved
(East Side Digital's Blurb:)
Wendy Carlos - Beauty in the Beast
(ESD 81552 enhanced CD)
Beauty in the Beast is Wendy
Carlos's haunting "world music" album: eight compositions that
explore instruments and musical forms such as Tibetan gongs, Balinese
gamelan, African rhythms, and Bulgarian melodies. A "soundtrack to a
dream," now ready to be experienced!
Released only briefly in 1986, BitB is considered by many to be Carlos's most important album. Each track is an adventure in exotic timbres and ear-catching tunings.
Aritist: WENDY CARLOS
Title: Digital Moonscapes / Beauty In The Beast
Label: East Side Digital
Genres: Avant garde, Electronic, Orchestral
Not only is Wendy Carlos a pioneer in electronic music in using
the synthesiser, her involvement and contributions to the development
of the beasts of circuitry has made her somewhat of an electronic
genetic engineer. Loosely modelled after Holst's The Planets,
Digital Moonscapes (originally
released in 1984) was a rather traditional yet adventurous musical
impression made by various planets and moons in the solar system. The
album would also serve to be the world's first "orchestra" to be
conducted and created completely within the electronic realm.
While somewhat serving as a practical excuse for Carlos to manipulate and mutate technology to create a more realistic sounding digital orchestra, it wasn't until two years later that she would break ground with the legendary Beauty In The Beast, a meisterwerk on all levels. It is a surreal, Hieronymous Bosch-like musical interpretation of what lies beneath normality, and inspired by her world travels. After having endlessly tweaked each sound and circuit by ear, Carlos took things to the next level by somehow applying "magical" attributes to her library of orchestral sounds, which are otherwise humanly impossible to do with the real instruments. Somehow, these sounds become animals in their own right, sometimes even emitting bizarre emotions that are felt for the most part as too new, raw and peregrine to be able to describe.
As with her film score for A Clockwork Orange, these two sparkling, remastered reissues are the definitive versions to obtain, as not only is the sound astronomically better but Carlos' own infatuatingly in-depth liner notes are more informative than most encyclopaedias.
Beauty in the Beast
East Side Digital ESD 81552
(originally reviewed for weeks ending 1/17/87 and12/2/00)
Go To Billboard.com
Carlos expands the vocabulary of the electronic keyboard on this
remarkable album, built around Middle Eastern, Balinese, and African
scales--a groundbreaking performance.
Beauty In The Beast is a formidable recording, a manifesto for the synthesizer in the global village. Carlos digitally hand-crafted her own global orchestra, coupling hybrid instruments and timbres that are remarkably true to form, from the roaring Tibetan trumpets that open the album to the gendér xylophones and suling flutes. Carlos' alternate tunings, which make the melodies sound like they're being bent in a fun house mirror, may throw off some listeners, but once your ears adjust, it adds to the otherworldly force of a music born in both technology and ancient cultures.
Wendy Carlos: "Beauty in the Beast"
(originally appeard in Keyboard magazine, April 1987)
In her last couple of albums, Wendy Carlos has succeeded in accomplishing completely what "Switched-On Bach" only foreshadowed: As far as the listener need be aware, there is no longer any difference between a symphony orchestra and a multi-track synthesizer realization (see Digital Moonscapes). If "Beauty !n The Beast" were noteworthy only for its stunning instrument replicas (and extrapolations thereon) it would qualify as a stunt--a virtuoso stunt, to be sure, but no more. The exotic tunings? Again, fascinating stuff. But how does the album stand up as music.?
Well, 'stand up' may not be quite the right phrase. It hops out of the speakers and parades around the room wrapped in a copy of "The New York Times". It tastes like chocolate and smells like gasoline. It plays better backgammon than you do. In other words, yes, this is real music. And more. Not content to adapt the resources of existing styles to her new needs, Carlos has broken through to a new vocabulary of composition, in which primitive elements are blended with Romantic symphonic scoring and a dash of electronic eclecticism. The operative word is 'blended'; from beginning to end, "Beauty In The Beast" is one experience.
The tunings add a lot to the impact, of course. Those of you who picked up last November's Keyboard have already had a chance to hear some excerpts from "Beauty !n The Beast" on our Soundpage. If you missed the Soundpage (or even if you didn't), do yourself a favor: Buy the album. The effect of the tunings is difficult to describe, but once heard, it cannot easily be forgotten. Or is it the tunings that create such an impression? Are we, perhaps, hearing and responding to vibrant, expressive music that just happens to use unusual tunings? Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Well, no chicken ever sprouted this kind of foliage. A bird of paradise, maybe.
Copyright 1987 Keyboard magazine.
All Rights Reserved.
Excerpt of a review of "Beauty
In The Beast"
by Rob Berry for the Ambient FAQ
(Read the full review here)
GENRE: "A new music which defies categorization"
RATING: 10 of 10 STRONGEST TRACKS: "Incantation", "Poem For Bali" WEAKEST TRACKS: "That's Just It"
"Beauty In The Beast" is a CD unlike any other. This is new, unearthly music that cannot be categorized. Terrifying and seductive all at once, this is a "soundtrack to a dream" by the world's greatest living musician...
If "Beauty In The Beast" does indeed represent the music of the future, then the future is gonna kick ass. This CD is my all-time favorite, the one I would take with me if I were to be stranded on a desert island. "Beauty In The Beast" is unlike any other CD I've ever heard. It cannot be categorized under any of the familiar labels. "New age", "ambient" or "world music" would seem to fit best, though Wendy Carlos would cringe at being described with any of those labels.
"Beauty In The Beast" is unique in several ways. First and foremost, Carlos has started by throwing out the foundation for all Western music since the 1700's: The twelve-tone equal temperament scale. In its place, she has substituted a wide variety of different tunings. Some of these tunings are traditional tunings from various cultures; others were invented by Carlos. And there's more here than just exotic tunings. The all-digital timbres possess nuances normally found only in acoustic instruments. The orchestration is flawless, and her sense of form superb. She has paid a great deal of attention to the details, and this makes "Beauty In The Beast" a truly unique listening experience... for those who enjoy world music, those who love experimental music, and those who like a challenge. I genuinely believe that Wendy Carlos is the world's greatest living musician; after hearing "Beauty In The Beast", you will too.
A new BitB review by Carol Wright for
Barnes & Noble.com
(to go to the <bn.com> site and view Carlos's listings, CLICK HERE;
to read a recent Wright bn.com interview with Carlos, CLICK HERE)
Like a comet flashing across the musical
sky, Wendy Carlos's Beauty in the Beast had a brief but
spectacular life before her original record label went bankrupt and
shot the critically acclaimed album out of circulation. Now Carlos
has remastered the 1987 masterpiece, on which she added to the
digital orchestrations she had created for Digital Moonscapes
with electronic world instruments such as the Balinese gamelan,
Tibetan trumpets, marimbas, and the Indian tamboura. These sounds are
a little less unfamiliar nowadays since world music is more
mainstream, so they may not feel as "beastly" to Western ears as when
Carlos first let them loose on unsuspecting listeners. But then,
Carlos never set out here to make a world music album, but instead
designed digital replicas of these ethnic instruments to add unusual
new sounds to her customized synthesizer.
"Incantation" opens the album; its blast-open-the-heavens aesthetic builds waves of Tibetan chanting, acrid trumpets, and the tangy clash of bells, only to fade suspensefully to the clickity-clack sound of a prayer wheel. Carlos successfully captures the ear-jarring imperfections of these instruments and the free-for-all timing typical of a Tibetan ensemble. The breathtaking "Poem for Bali" uses two tunings unique to the gamelan orchestra; passages fly by like banners unfurled over tropical treetops. Intriguing, polyrhythmic layers of horns, chimes, and percussion play tag, and the gamelan players bang out flurries of melody on their metal keys. "That's Just It" and "Yusae-Aisae" use a harmonic scale of Carlos's own invention; the first is played as a jazz sextet, while the second invokes a slithery, Hollywoodesque Middle Eastern marketplace. "C'est Afrique" is a delight of polyrhythms, with Vocoder-produced village chanters. But "A Woman's Song" is Carlos's most sublime piece of all, a mélange of a Bulgarian shepherdess song, Indian ragas, and hybrid instruments. Indeed, some of the sounds are beastly on the ears at first, but Carlos has tamed them so that we may stroke the rare fur of their hides.
Going where no other musician goes
November 25, 2000
Reviewer: Dave Hartl from Telford, PA United States
What you have here is something no other musician is doing to the degree Wendy Carlos is: exploration of alternative tunings in original music using synthesizers, while sounding like an acoustic assemblage of world musicians. This CD was called a soundtrack for a dream by others, and that really describes it for me.
This came out in 1986 on a label that went under shortly after it was released, so very few got to hear it. As a synthesizer player, it changed the way I thought about music and electronic music, as revelatory as Switched On Bach was in its day. At first, I couldn't take it. It sounded so out of tune and strange! But as I kept listening to it, I found a whole new standard of beauty, like falling in love with an ugly child.
For years, I spent many hours driving across the New Jersey pines at night with no interruptions. This album was my soundtrack for those crossings for years (coupled with Ornette Coleman's Skies of America, a perfect pairing). It was transporting,mystical, and intriguing, and the ride always was over before I was ready.
At last! I've been waiting for years for this one to become available on CD. Take advantage of it now that it's here!
John DiLiberto (JazzIz magazine),
in a featured Amazon.com CD review
From the roar of Tibetan horns and the clangor of metal percussion that opens Beauty in the Beast, Wendy Carlos in 1986 signaled a new direction for her music. Beauty in the Beast is Carlos's magnum opus, an album that should have established the synthesizer'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 both profound and poignant, dissonant and disarming on Beauty, as she fuses a global orchestra from her synthesizers.
"Poem for Bali" is the centerpiece 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 fun house mirrors. But then there are pieces such as "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--Carlos should plug into this circuit again.
A new review of the remastered Beauty,
from the January 2001 issue of Keyboard Magazine
Originally released as an LP in 1986 on Larry Fast's ill-fated Audion label, Beauty in the Beast has been unavailable for the past 14 years -- a tragedy, as it's arguably Carlos's most important album. But now, thanks to East Side Digital, Carlos is remastering and re-releasing her entire back catalog, and Beauty is back. A near-perfect mesh of unusual tunings and painstakingly constructed additive synthesis programs played on her customized Synergy synthesizers, the music is as astonishing today as when it was first recorded, transporting the listener to an exotic world where seemingly acoustic timbres morph into sonorous creatures from other places and times. Plus, the new release is an Enhanced-CD with photos of Wendy's evolving studio and even of her Siamese cats. If all you know about her is Switched-On Bach, you're in for a treat (and I don't mean the cats).
Copyright 2001 Keyboard magazine.
All Rights Reserved
Shadows, Issue #8, January 2001
Wendy Carlos: Beauty in the Beast
Glenn Folkvord rates this album 9/10
Playing time: 58:06 (8 tracks) -- Label: East Side Digital
Release date: November 2000 -- Availability: Stores or online
November 2000 re-release by East Side Digital is highly welcome. Not
only is the album repackaged and remastered, but finally the album
will actually be available, which it before only was for 3 brief
months in 1987. Beauty in the Beast is Carlos' "world music" album,
featuring explorations of exotic instruments and sounds from Tibet,
Bali and Bulgaria, among others. The idea of the music is to look at
the beauty that lies "just below each fearsome exterior" of beasts of
the earth - and I assume - not only animal ugliness, from a musical
What immediately strikes me upon the very first listen is that this is not the kind of album you start playing as background music to household chores. That kind of listening doesn't give me much from this album. I really have to sit down, maybe with the lights switched off and maybe with headphones, and listen closely to the carefully crafted textures and arrangements. Otherwise the beauty of what could be perceived as noise and random structures might get lost. I tribute this to Carlos' idea about having to look closer and beyond the superficial ugliniess to discover the beauty, so in that sense she achieved perfectly her intention, at least to this listener.
The music is 100% digital, made in the mid 80s, and yet the programming of sounds is so good that I do not find any of the harsh digitalness that most mid 80s digital music suffered from. In fact, the guy with the biggest synthesizer budget in the world, Jean-Michel Jarre, made an album at the same time which sounds more 80s and more dated that Beauty in the Beast, which sounds almost not dated at all. I am impressed by the quality of the programming.
Musically, the album presents everything from sparkling improvised-like bursts of exotic electronic sounds, to ambient, low-key passages and "sequencer patterns" that are actually replications of real-life drumming. There are a few melodic sections, but the album is mainly focused on textures and experimental arrangements, sometimes with lead instruments with non-melodic or non-harmonic themes, although it must be said I have heard records that deal even more with atonal arrangements. The music here is not unpleasant, but not exactly the kind of stuff you try to get your kids to whistle.
Because 15 years have passed since this album was made, it may not sound as exotic today as it did then, but a true work of art will not diminish with time.