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Ciani and Electronic Music


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


A picture of features 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.

Excerpts from Voices of Packaged Souls:

Music note link to song Sounds of a Flower Falling Sounds of a Flower Falling
Music note link to song The Sounds of a Dream Kissing
The Sounds of a Dream Kissing
Music note link to song All Dreams Are Not For Sale
All Dreams Are Not For Sale
Music note to song Sounds of Love Turning Sounds of Love Turning

Other early electronic work by Suzanne:

Music note link to Visions for Moveable FeastVisions for Moveable Feast
Music note link to song Beaudelaire: ElevationBeaudelaire: Elevation

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 with it.

Video of 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 Gordy.

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 and Caviar!"

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.

Suzanne's early technical achievements made the front covers of these magazines. Click on any magazine icon below visit the download page.
Photo by Lloyd Williams

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