quill pen icon
An Open Letter
Part Three
to those who have written,
and other site visitors

(This part was last updated: January 15,1999)

Herein begins Part Three of the Open Letter, containing collected feedback with all of you site surfers. Some of you have suggested it ought be split into "Rant & Raves", and other similar (alliterative?) ruminations, but this would lose for me the temporal continuity. I may still try a similar method of reorganizing this admittedly chaotic collection of thoughts. For now, let's use the calendar approach. All the comments prior to August 1996 will be found in Part One. And those added up through November 1997 will be in Part Two. This will continue as a third part. I'll put in the current list of Gold Leaf Awards (for those who located the SOB 2000 album's single Moog sound) as before, to the top of the newest open letter. Other added-on new material goes near/at the end, so read from the top down for the original written order.

Please note that for the latest information on upcoming release, look to the Recent News page, not here. Sometimes the two will overlap, but we will try to place the appropriate items in the appropriate locations!

red leaf Since this Open Letter 3 was begun, there were a great many interruptions, important ones described elsewhere, that prevented me from returning to it in 1998. Thank you all for your patience. You'll by now have found so many new things that WERE added in the last four weeks, that this may no longer be the first place to look for new things and bits of news. Actually, the Recent News page has taken over most of that, anyway. There was a bunch of stuff added just in the last couple of days. So you might go check that out right away. And also see the new Discography Page, and for behind the scenes details, see its part two page, Discography Notes. Many of your most recent questions will find answers there. I'll get to the Green Leaf Awards again soon, there are several others since the last one was added below.
But for all the many kind comments, and questions galore, I'll have to admit it -- it's gotten WAY past my pretenses at being able to keep up with any more. I'm trying to find a way that I can still make a real attempt at getting replies added, even if it happens in clusters, with very much more telegraphic explanations. A few years ago I simply had more time to attend to the replies, and truthfully, there were a LOT fewer of you back then to send me those kind letters.
We'll work out a way. By entering this one item to the top of the most recent open letter tonight, though, I simply wanted to assist any of you who have come looking for some response as I generally make in a few weeks, by directing you to areas that have gotten several additional sections added exactly because some of you asked the question that just had to be answered. Take a look. And if it's really important, and I have not made any reply that makes sense, try again. But please don't keep resending the same message over and over again. I note that a very few of you have even resent the same image, a gif or jpeg right off my site, back to me along with each resent message. Please stop! I already know what the images look like, and you don't need to assume I've hired the village's local idiot to take care of the mail...
Anyway, that's it for the moment. This page, along with the more extensive rebuildings of the photos and resources pages are the only real outstanding pages yet to be worked on. They will all be taken care of as time permits, I promise. And I also promise that I still do read all of your letters to me, the kind ones, the routine ones, and even the very few cussed ones. I do NOT read the mail group stuff, bulks-mailing files, like magazines and promotional letters and the buy-this and thats. You're wasting your time to send such things to a fan mail site, as your really ought realize. There are times when I can't log-on to check the mail more frequently than every sever or eight weeks. Other times I do it as often as every two or three weeks. That will explain why there is often a big delay when you send something crucial, and I don't seem to have gotten it. It rests here on the site's backed-up HD, waiting patiently for my next download probe. I even print out most of the letters from you (besides saving them in groups within TEXT files,) so I can go through and circle items to answer, what it say more or less, to organize the next attack on these Open Letters, and all the other ways I do try to reply to you. (No more can mere mortal do.)
Currently there are quite a few of you who wrote neat, fascinating ideas I'd love to get back to. And a few friends from years ago have contacted me here, too, for which thoughtful mail I'm very thankful. I will get a message off you each of you as soon as I can. Don't fear, it was not lost, as this is not the Official Hubble Telescope Black Hole Page...!
red leaf
As is explained within some of the descriptions on the News page just posted, my time for maintaining this web site vanished completely as of late last year. And Matthew, who landed a wonderful job at Mark of the Unicorn, had been weaning me into handling the HTML-ing by myself for many months, by then had no time for web mastering this or his own good site, either. Amusingly, right away he became MotU's web master, and so their site took on a nicely subtle tone of wit and playfulness (and weirdness) more than it had before.

I am right now involved in a multi step big deadline to get the remasterings and masters for the start of new releases and back catalog, as is also explained on one of the Recent News items (please look there). So there's artwork to create and some to edit, notes to write, and others to rework and assemble, equipment to calibrate and get working to do the transfers, DAW time to put the tracks together, do touch ups and cleanings where needed, and old tapes not played in decades must be auditioned to find the bonus tracks we plan to add, and final CD masters to be generated -- phew! When I finish putting this update up on the site tonight, it will probably be my final posting until the first three album masters are sent off to ESD ( East Side Digital -- lovely people, bright and enthusiastic, and they're in this biz because THEY LOVE MUSIC! -- wotta concept!) by early September.

In the meantime, while composing the score, I still did sneak in two visits onto the mail drop for this site, and was quite overwhelmed by the mass of good letters I found there. Thank you all, most sincerely! Only a very few were of the kind that demanded some things unreasonably, or lamely asked questions already answered (many) times on these pages. Seems that some of the same questions get asked again and again, as if any answers I take the time to explain carefully are never ever read. But this is a minority of the notes and letters, fer sure.

There are a few more Green/Gold Leaf Awards to post here (yes-- all of you who tried did get the correct answer!) for finding my wry joke of one Moog synth note in the SOB 2000 album that came out on Telarc in 1992. When I get back to the site, I'll put those up here. And a lot of you ask about the availability of certain favorite older albums. The best possible answer to that question seems to be underway at last. I sure hope it doesn't fall through so that my next update will have to say: "Sorry, folks, it's all off again!" (expect the worst, hope for the best, as that old saw goes... neurotic? cynical? realistic? Crosseth of many fingers, please.)
Postscript: All of the awards list has been consolodated and is now availabe at the top of the current Open Letter, which at the moment should be right HERE...

red leaf There were many generous enclosures you sent. Some were images that I got a big smile out of, some were to help me get good gifs or jpegs for this site, some were clever music files, many were interesting texts. I did eventually get to read all of them, and I want to take this moment to thank all of you for them again. As for the deeper queries posted, I hope to make some ingress into answering these over the next months, even if many have to be answered in a group of like questions, or just abbreviated notes. Alas, time is the most precious resource and has a nasty habit of evaporating no matter what precautions are taken. So I probably will never be able to get through all of them. At least the most interesting ones will receive an answer here. Be patient, please.

It seems that having a web site also occasionally catches the attention of some "voice out of the past". So I received a few very welcome letters from people I'd not seen or communicated with for many years. Lovely, that kind of happenstance... I'll post more news about the status of the remasterings soon. I have a great backlog of other things I'd love to post here for you. But it takes a very long time for me to get even the meager things you see here already. What to do about, say, older magazine interviews that exist only in original printed form?

Yes, I know one can photocopy and cut apart the columns, scan and text recognize these, correct the mistakes in character recognition algorithms, do a clean new reformatting, then scan the many pix and graphics, and type up all the connecting html to let it reside properly here. Many other images, like eclipse prints, take a long time to do clean digital scans of. I'll certainly post the two new coronal composite shots from the past February eclipse (which we saw beautifully from Aruba), and my "shaggy dog description" of the micro-adventure we had.

There are also a lot of audio and music files that would be neat to have on line; these would have to be located, transferred, excerpted, edited, and converted to practical format (MPEG Audio? QuickTime? Compressed 8-bit 22 kHz?). Coming Attractions (that's why this is a Living Page, of course. Try this in a magazine or book...) I guess only the rock/pop stars who can afford to hire a pro web company to do such things can keep up with all of it. I sure as hell can't. Ah well, thanks for the visit, and spread the word to those interested to come take a browse here someday. Over and out.

red leaf Since last November the number of letters has been on the increase, while simultaneously, my time was on the decrease. Out of the collision came the inevitable loss of continuation with these comments. In the meantime, a huge project got completed, a novel concert with live synths was mounted, some personal important items I won't explain here got finished off, and other business meetings and items currently underway have begun. Despite the warm weather (which encourages the mind to drift elsewhere, or simply float), it's time to set the continuation of the Open Letter straight.
red leaf
Many of you have made e-mailed suggestions about other composers to listen to, web sites and publications that would like to include references to my music, work, and news, and those who wish MIDI files, and links -- we will think these ideas all through carefully over the next months. We save your e-mail addresses, and will get in touch with you as applicable. Thanks very much!
red leaf
Thanks for the suggestions about baking tapes that have turned to sticky goo, like the masters for Tron have done. I've mentioned this a few times before. As soon as I can get a proper, robust 4-track digital medium, that will be a necessary task fer sure. We've tried it with less important tapes already, and it doesn't always work very well. Some stickies often remain. But thank you, and I'll keep your addresses for reference!
red leaf
I've had more than a few very hearty laughs about some of the more amusing sites many of you have sent in. I don't have a lot of browsing time, and never gotten bitten by that bug, to be honest about it. Still, I did look. And some of your sites were priceless, very clever, intelligent, and downright irreverent comments for the world in which we currently find ourselves. (Some were very touching emotionally, too, a good use of communication.)
Enter Soapbox Mode

I'm a true skeptic, and and lucky for it, for whatever combination of environment, parents and peers, taught me that knack while I was growing up. I wish the very idea of being a skeptic were taught in more classes and TV programs today, to protect us from the Psychic Babble and Junk Science that increasingly surrounds us. Guess we ought remind ourselves that you can generally make more money with lies than with truth. So in a commerce-driven society like ours, you ought be suspect of the what's pitched as fact in the news and media.

Also remember a lotta people are lazy, and thinking things through logically, or pursuing origins, can be a lotta work. Nature may have given humankind the gift of intelligence, but not without its price (even before inflation!) Some folks I know have told me that they find the hardest work is thinking work. Easier just to believe blindly. Dogma (woof.) It's plain that for whatever reasons, many of you who visit my site share many skeptical concerns (no, I don't believe clear-headed thought goes with an interest in electroacoustic music -- wish it did!) ... thus the amusing parodies and scathing send-ups you have pointed me to (with my thanks!)...

It is genuinely scary to consider the dangers of tossing away the years it's taken us to reach whatever knowledge we DO have in the West, in the late 20th Century. I know there have been evils, and misuses of scientific discoveries in the past, although usually it's the technology that's doing the harm, not the science (Physics is NOT an inherently dangerous subject.) But this is no reason to re-embrace the woolly-headed irrationalities of past generations, to fall for the scams and quacks that depend on our being ignorant and gullible.

When you have no hard evidence, better to say, "I don't believe it", than to fall for the (probably) baloney. Remember Theodore Sturgeon's 1st law: "99% of Everything is Crud". Applies to art & music (and how!), applies to new discoveries and the latest headlines (remember "Cold Fusion"? -- it sounded like baloney from the first excited report that night on the news. Just another humbug.)

Later on, when a few of the ideas may be proven to be correct (with independently testable evidence), you can reserve the right to change your mind: "Oh, NOW I can see how that must be true!". It's no sin to be wrong, but it IS a grave danger to give up the ability to discern the difference between fact (what's most probably true) and fantasy (what most New Agers, Homeopathists, and Roswellians, to name a few, rationalize to be real.) If you can't conceive of a possible test that might prove some cherished notion to be false, the notion is not worth holding.

Exit Soapbox Mode

I will eventually write up a few painfully earned and double-blind tested beliefs, and post them here. You can already tell that this is a topic, as a few of you have already raised to me in your e-mail, that I passionately feel about and have given much thought over the years. In the meantime, do try to locate a copy of dear Carl Sagan's last fully new book, The Demon Haunted World. This and Martin Gardner's recent The Night is Large ought be on any decent high school curriculum's reading list. 'Nuff said!

red leaf An occasional e-mail letter asks me if I really read all of my mail to this site. As I think I've said here elsewhere, the answer is Y - E - S. Honest. But I simply cannot answer all of you, nor do it personally. That's why I hope you'll accept these Open Letters as the next best thing, and not a bad way to address common or stimulating ideas and questions.
red leaf
Some mail keeps arriving asking the same questions over and over again. If I've not gotten to your question here, it's often the case that the information is located on one of this site's pages already. So, for the reasons why some particular piece or an album is, or is not available, see the Discography Page. If the item is particularly new, it may appear on the Recent News Page first. Info about the site itself will fall under the Meta Page. Bio questions are frequently already on the Biography Page, and so on.

Under the Write Wendy Page you will find the other Open Letters, like this one, which have a lot of answers already, although these are placed chronologically as they were written, so may require skimming through for topics of particular concern to you. There really are a lot of other archived materials we intend to post up here eventually, more MIDI files, long articles, other photos and music files and VR Movies of the studio and all. Since the maintenance of the site must await spare moments, it just takes longer to get the information assembled, scanned, edited, translated, rewritten, modified, or whatever to fit a Web Site best. Normally, if you check back with us every two months, there will generally be new items to find. These can be quickly noted from the What's New Page.

red leaf Yes, for all the reasons above, and many more, I do agree with those of you who have exclaimed how neat the new technologies of communications truly are! I couldn't agree with you more. The idea of having a refreshable, living web magazine like this, with text and graphics and photos and music and sounds, for the use of those who share in these particular "special interests", is at once astonishing, and yet easy to take for granted. I salute all of you who have contributed to making it possible! (This includes John Romkey, the founder of the apocalypse server, and one of the creators of the PC-IP/TCP, small computer connections to the Net and the Web.)
red leaf
About my Bach arrangements, these were out of my own head, and not versions published elsewhere. A few of the ideas were suggested by friends, other musicians, or some favorite recording we had heard, but these got very adapted into the synthesizer medium and my own quirky taste in sounds and performance. The Scarlatti Sonatas (in The Well Tempered Synthesizer) were wholly new in orchestration and hocketing arrangements, but the tempos and rubatos were in some cases inspired by Horowitz's energetic recordings of the same music. Since (as Martin Gardner sagely points out) Coincidence is Probable, there may indeed be places and pieces that resemble some existing example. But didn't someone once mention an idea about great minds and similar ruts?
red leaf
Yes, the Carlos Alpha scale on many synths, especially from Kurzweil, is my invention. There are also Beta and Gamma varieties, and some are mentioned in the articles on the Resources Page, plus the long article in Computer Music Journal that awaits several weeks of tedious work to convert into html-friendly format, whereupon it will be located here. But Carlos Alpha is an example of a non-symmetric scale, one which does not contain an octave naturally -- the synth supplies that -- so the intervals can be made purer than normal, while not requiring a huge number of notes to do it well in. But I'm not gonna explain it more clearly than that right now!
red leaf
To the few of you who wonder about my playing live, the answer is: "Yes, but not often." See the Old News Page for commentary about the most recent performance, with some photos. And we're working on some way to do more, especially of my own newer music, if you're interested in that bit of fluff!
red leaf
I have gotten a couple of queries about who is Rachel. Rachel Elkind-Tourre is a very private person, and was my partner in a small company we called TEMPI, under which we recorded about a dozen years, including our now "infamous" Switched-On series. She is a singer and producer who knows a lot about music, has a keen ear and creative insights, and it was wonderful to work with her on so many albums. Alas, for personal reasons, she left NYC for a few years in 1980, and has not been involved with any music projects since then.
red leaf
It was very nostalgic for me to get the question about the other Tempi productions I helped on during the years Rachel and I worked together, like Albert Dailey, and Michelangelo. When we split, Rachel kept Tempi and, I assume, these projects. Perhaps CBS/Sony still has the rights to the masters. I have no idea of what the status is with any of them and I'm not involved with them in any way. (I do remember that these were very special productions, with good music and performances - *sigh*.) I'll try to find out when I have a chance, but it is extremely unlikely that I can do much about them. So it goes.
red leaf
For the answer to the question of when I'll be releasing any new music, see above, but especially the News Page. There's a new, major project just now completed (Tales of Heaven and Hell), but not yet released, and we will do our best to keep you informed about it and future music on this site. Thank you!
red leaf
Some of you are obviously equally interested in astronomy as am I. I received a question about recommended telescopes. I'm not the ideal person to answer this one, as I've not tried all the many available ones. But the Celestron line has been around for about 30 years, and I have several of theirs, from 5" through 14", including their excellent 760 mm tele-lens catodioptrics. These are great for catching deep sky, dimmer objects, like a "light bucket".

But for planets and high-res images of brighter bodies, I still favor a refractor. I've made a 6" Rich Field one, but mostly use the 4 1/4" 1600 mm f.l. one I built also for solar eclipse work. It uses a Jaegers lens and lens cell, with a thick black velvet lined collapsible aluminum tube (for strength and portability) and 2" focuser, and is very, very sharp, for good views of Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. It's just not so good with the dimmer stuff, and is a lot clumsier to use than a nice stubby "Cat" reflector, like the Celestrons. I've also heard good reports on the Meade telescope line, and a Questar is, well, a Questar -- a true jewel, super high res in the center, but very pricey and with the limited field of view or angular film coverage of a Maksutov.

But for some work, like comets, and even eclipses, or the larger nebulae, a good pair of large sized binoculars (7x50 or better) can't be beat! That's how we saw both Hyakutake and Hale-Bopp, right from our roof here in southern Manhattan, and it was an ideal choice. By the way, it's a pisser that we still have light pollution in the city (though less than 20 years ago, by the way...), so deep sky stuff is rather out of the question. Yet we also have frequently very stable skies and inversion layers, so that the views of the crashes into Jupiter by Comet Shoemaker-Levy in '94, and the edge-on rings of Saturn in '95 were very well seen (actually the rings were NOT seen during edge-on day, which was the whole point: seeing a ringless Saturn) from here. Real treats (there's more to life than MIDI)!

red leaf As for the more general question about how I feel about the newer trends in electronic music equipment, contrasted with what I used to make my first album, don't get me started! Actually, when I stop to think about it, the pervasive use of these tools has spawned a plethora of medi(not midi!)ocre music (remember Sturgeon's Rule, up above!), but you can't curse the instruments for the music made using them. The user's taste (or lack of same) and musical knowledge (or lack of same) and performance and voicing skills (or LACK of same) do enough to shape the quality (or LACK OF SAME!) of music made electronically. But you know that already, right?

To be candid, most of the new instruments are fine, even very, very good. I've found it hard to recall the tedium I used to endure with the older machines, their inherent instabilities, their limited sound palettes, and all that. Digital, I have found, is not necessarily any worse sounding than the best of analog, but you have to do it properly, no cheating. And then the rock solid repeatability of digital can be wonderful! (Getting subtle randomness in sounds, however, is harder...) For alternative tunings, they make all the difference in the world between barely usable and trivially easy. And they're actually cheaper in today's dollars, and deliver much more bang for the buck that you might realize!

But everything is a compromise, and I score no current device as excellent. Not yet, at least for me. That would require a full additive engine, in addition to other hybrid models inside, to allow that "any sound you can imagine" to be finally achievable -- (right now, it's NOT.) And oh yes, we need easy to use interfaces, with many knobs and controls and all that, for which the old Moog was hard to beat, and the newer devices are much, much worse... (alas...)

red leaf Thanks to Fred Becker for new information about the venerable Synergy Synthesizer(!). He informs me that there is a new web site with resources being made available to update these machines, and add PC control to the voicing, much as had been done years ago with a Kaypro computer. I've not yet had the chance to examine the site and info, but will simply mention and insert the links for those of you who are interested.

The main site is: http://www.synthtech.com/, and the synergy info is at: http://www.synthtech.com/synergy/synergy1.html.
(while these sites have been down at times, I've been told they're back up and working again, good news.)

Please not that these easier to remember new urls are the latest versions (as of Jan 1999), updated via a recent thoughtful message from Frank Hausman on the topic (thanx so much, Frank!) Fred Becker informs me that the author is Paul Schreiber, who is an EE and also designed the Moog Rogue and the MG-1 for Moog Music many moons ago! Hmm... This may be of help to those of you who have asked me in the past what to do about their Synergies. Stoney Stockell may still be of help, as I mentioned in a much earlier open letter message, but this new site may be even of additional help. Thanks, Fred, very much for the tip!

red leaf More thanks, this time for some lovely compliments about the Total Eclipse images posted on this site, on the Wendy's Eclipse Page. They were tough to do (and even with the new digital image media remain stubbornly so), and took a lot of time and effort. Evenso, it WAS a labor of love, as the saying goes, and I'm proud to discover still that there are no comparably realistic images of this kind to be found anywhere else. Nice to have the appreciation and the applause. Thanks again!

Also it was good to hear from Richard Rosichan, another veteran eclipse chaser, with many "coronas under his belt", too. I have more comments on my chases on the above page, as many of you have read. Delighted to hear from many of you. Perhaps we many meet again at some future site of impending lunar shadowing...!

red leaf No current plans to work with Larry Fast right now (thanks for those who asked), but we have done a little of this on a film project a few years ago that whet nowhere. And we speak about it with enthusiasm fairly often. It may happen, you know. But Larry has not had much time for his own music in the last ten years, with many other "irons in his fire". When that changes, the plan to do a collaboration, even if at first only a track or two, will be much more likely to happen. Nice suggestions -- I'll tell him!
red leaf
Yes, the background tiling of the plane with my name (that you ought see behind this text right now) is my own fabrication. It's explained more under the About the Background, which is located from the Meta Page. Escher has always been an important artist to me, and it seems many of you also share this notion.
red leaf
The reason the original Warner Brothers release of the music for A Clockwork Orange has so little of our full selections on it is standard: only the actual portions of music that appear on the film appear on a soundtrack album. Since Kubrick had selected only a portion of my Timesteps, that was the roughly four minutes only that was included on this soundtrack album (they didn't really have the room, anyway, as Stanley wanted to include such musical trivia as "Lighthouse Keeper", the "Overture to the Sun" cue, and both brief "Pomp and Circumstance March" excerpts (all of which I would have omitted in favor of the full "Timesteps", but it was not my decision to make.) A few of your letters mention the Timesteps being chopped, so I wanted to elucidate why it happened. A shame, true, and it hurts that many of you still don't know the entire work, which is about 13 minutes long (it was often used in Lasarium shows in the 70's and 80's, I've been told...)

That complete version appears, with all the other music Rachel and I composed and realized for the film, on our own CBS release of music from the film. Contractually we had to delay our version by a few months, but it sold well, even without the film's artwork on the cover, nor the names of Wrn. Bros and Kubrick. It's been out of print for years now, and will be an eventual part of the CD rerelease that are discussed in several other places on this site. Stay tuned, and eventually you'll get to hear the whole thing, nice and clean and pristine.

red leaf In answer to the question of who did the Vocoder articulations on the earlier albums, most of this was, indeed, done by Rachel. As a singer, she has a much better control and vocal quality for this than do I. Also her formants are of lower pitch than mine, thus easier to hear and process. A few shorter chorus parts in the last movement of the "Beethoven Ninth Symphony" performance were with my articulations, so they wouldn't merge with Rachel's important articulations on the tenor solo. The end of "Country Lane" on our version of the soundtrack for CO has Rachel's articulations, too. But most of the ones on "Timesteps" are mine, done as well as I could at the time!
red leaf
As to making the MIDI files of some of the music from my score for Disney's Tron available on this site, please be aware that this music was done well before MIDI was invented by David Smith (thanks, David!), and so exists only as recorded tracks, synthesizer and live orchestra and chorus, onto tape. Any sequences would require ALL NEW performances, thus not be the originals, of course. Also, the music is all Disney's copyright, so I don't have the legal rights to distribute it in any way, even if we did have MIDI files. How quickly we've taken MIDI for granted!

In general, none of my albums before the Peter and the Wolf parody were done with storable MIDI files (although Digital Moonscapes did have slaved together Synergies using MIDI), since it had just become available for professional sequencing in the mid-late 80's (I was one of the first Performer users, and have been a beta tester with Mark of the Unicorn for well over ten years now). So please don't ask about "when the performances from them will be available as MIDI files". The answer is "Never". (Not what's on the albums, anyway.) Let's just leave this as an exercise for the reader at home...

red leaf For some reason, comments about sending "shivers up and down the spine" in regards to some of my music (Beauty in the Beast being the most notable, although I'll bet the new one, TH&H, will garner similar soon...) has increased notably in recent months. This is about as fine a compliment a composer can get for new music. Thankee most sincerely and deeply for letting me know some bits of my stuff had, indeed, gotten "under your skin"! ! (I luv it!)
red leaf
Thanks for reading this continuing growing stream of (loosely) connected thoughts. I'll get back with more feedback and comments when I can. Stay tuned!

--Wendy Carlos  

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