At Wellesley as an undergraduate, Suzanne went on a field trip to MIT. There she was introduced to a professor who was attempting to make his computer re-create the sound of a violin. Thus began Suzanne's 25 year Odyssey with the art of electronic music. She was there in its nascence and instrumental in its growth and ascendancy. As a graduate student in Music Composition at Cal Berkeley in the late 60âs, Suzanne began working with the pioneers of electronic music.
She had her roots in both digital and analog synthesis from the beginning. She studied at Stanford with Max Matthews, the father of computer music, and John Chowning, the father of digital frequency modulation. But what most changed her life was meeting one of the earliest designers of analog music instruments, Don Buchla, whose apprentice she became, working on the assembly line at his Oakland shipyard loft. She was to devote the next ten years of her life to exploring the possibilities of this unique instrument, the Buchla, and her mastery of it would launch her career.
CLICK HERE to hear
the sound of the Buchla
In 1970, Suzanne worked with internationally renowned artist Harold Paris on an early collaborative piece that turned into Suzanne's first album, the now out of print Voices of Packaged Souls. This early work was critically acclaimed for its distinctive use of electronic music, as well as for Parisâs artistic vision. Suzanne's work in this field introduced her to the California fine art scene, and she became a much sought after creator of electronic audio installations for gallery and museum shows and modern dance performances. These spatial sonic environments provided Suzanneâs introduction to New York and her future life there when she was invited to perform live on the Buchla in an uptown art gallery.
Upon her arrival in New York, Suzanne was almost immediately
a celebrity. The New York
Times featured her in an article on the cover of the
Arts & Entertainment section, focusing on the new art
form of electronic music. But New York is a place of many
artistic celebrities, many of them not making a living. Suzanne
slept on the floors of artistsâ lofts and studios,
giving lessons in electronic music to Phillip Glass, Patrick
Moraz, and others.
Suzanne believed that the synthesizer was a new form of
instrument, having nothing to do with the imitation of other
instruments, to be valued more for its unique capabilities,
including working in subsonic and supersonic frequencies,
sustaining notes for days, instantly changing timbres, or
capable of being programmed to generate compositions for
weeks without repetition. She left her Buchla on for years
at a time, constantly working with it and completely in love
Suzanne playing the Buchla (4.4 M)
But it was difficult to be poor in New York. And projects
of hers such as "The Electronic Center for New Music" whose
goal was to create a new theater for electronic performances
in Lincoln Center, were not progressing because she lacked "clout." Despite
receiving several artistic grants, including one from the
National Endowment of the Arts, eventually Suzanne "hit
bottom" and committed herself to finding a commercial
outlet for her talents and developing the visibility that
would allow her to impact the world with her new ideas.
After calling for more than a year, Suzanne met Billy
Davis, a veteran producer and musical genius from Motown
who had been brought to New York to head the music division
of the worldâs largest advertising agency, McCann
Erickson. Billy had an innate and incredible sense of music.
He composed many big hits from the 50âs and 60âs,
including "Lonely Teardrops" and "Reete
Petite," in conjunction with Motown founder Barry
Billy instantly recognized the potential of Suzanneâs
work with the Buchla and asked her to design a special sound
for Coca Cola. She used the Buchla to create a musical effect
called the "Pop & Pour" which
became internationally famous. Billy also convinced her to
play some of the 'keyboard' synths, as many producers were
not able to understand the Buchla, and Suzanne became a much
sought after session player, adding her special touch to
numerous jazz and pop albums (including Mecoâs Star
Wars) as well as on jingles. She longed to control more aspects
of the production and decided to make her services exclusive
with her own production company, Ciani/Musica. Inc., which
became the #1 sound design music house in New York. She created
countless themes and logos, including the Energizer commercial
(The Energizer, energized----for Life!), co-wrote "Have
a Coke and a Smile" with Billy, the Columbia Pictures
logo and award winning scores for many of the Fortune 500.
When asked later if commercials were her bread and butter,
Suzanne jokingly commented, "No, theyâre my Champagne
Having taken care of her financial needs, particularly important
since being in the forefront of music technology was an expensive
proposition, Suzanne was able to turn to her real love, beginning
her recording career with the self-produced Seven Waves.
Photo by Lloyd Williams
CLICK HERE to
see the "Early Ciani" Photo Gallery