Tron comments

(Image from Amazon, used for review purposes only.)

One of the artists featured in Analog Days is Wendy Carlos (at the time, Walter). In the early 70’s, there was still a big marketing problem in getting the public to buy synthesizer music, which the record companies considered a novelty small-niche market. Wendy’s use of the Moog to reimagine Bach, on Switched-On Bach, was a huge game changer. The music was played on the radio almost non-stop for a year, and other musicians suddenly started coming out with their own rubber-stamp material, including “Switched-On Santa” and “Switched-On Country”. This was also a watershed moment for Robert Moog because his product’s name became irrevocably connected in peoples’ minds with the word “synthesizer”. However, Wendy herself refused to get up on stage and establish herself as a pop artist in the media.

Largely, this was because Walter was in the process of her gender change, while the surgical operation wouldn’t actually take place for another couple years. Sex changes were extremely uncommon at that point, and Walter would be one of the higher-profile personalities to undergo one. So, “he” shunned the spotlight at the peak of “S-OB’s” popularity, and, in part due to continued religious-influenced backlash, has continued to do primarily movie soundtrack work. She’s also very protective of her copyrights, and has managed to keep most, if not all, of her music off youtube. Unfortunately, most of the music on Amazon is in the form of CDs, rather than downloadable mp3s, and the CD’s are expensive. So, when I was trying to find something I could download and listen to right away, I was getting pretty frustrated. Then I discovered that she’d done the soundtrack for Tron, and Amazon had the mp3s from Walt Disney Records; a 2009 remix with 2 songs from Journey. The Journey songs, “Only Solutions” and “1990’s Theme” are both ignorable.

Before listening to the soundtrack, it may be helpful to read the article Secrets Behind the Soundtrack of TRON, written by Bob Moog. It describes how Wendy was selected to compose the soundtrack as well as the main sound effects for the film, and which machines she used. Once that’s out of the way, the next step is to listen to the album. Unfortunately, it’s pretty generic on its own.

I recently read an article (don’t remember which one) that said most SF films depend very heavily on the sound effects. If you watch something like Star Wars with the sound off, it looks like slapstick. And I’m afraid that the reverse holds true with older SF movie sound tracks – if you listen to the album away from the visuals of the film, it’s just derivative classical music or something from Loony Tunes. There are places where I’m wondering if I’m listening to Stravinsky or Bach, and other places where there’s no apparent connection to TRON the movie at all. The key piece that’s recognized as the “TRON theme” shows up in the main opening song, and reappears in a variation in “A New TRON and the MCP” as well as throughout some of the other minor theme pieces in small-sample form. Otherwise, the album sounds like the kind of classical music that I normally don’t listen to. Don’t get me wrong, I love the TRON movie, and I still think that it has a great supporting soundtrack, but the two parts have to be running together to be fully appreciated. For the most part, the music is produced by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, with some electronic sounds interwoven between the cracks. There’s very little to interest a student of synth music, in my opinion.

I guess I’m just going to have to wait until I can find a discounted copy of S-OB

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