Suzanne Ciani became interested in music when her mother bought a collection of classical albums, she then taught herself to play the piano, and read music.

At Wellseley College as an undergraduate in a classical music education she started to differentiate between performing and composing. After a field trip to M.I.T. she became interested in the use of technology in music. After graduation she continued her education as a composer at the University of California at Berkeley. During this time she met the "father of FM synthesis" John Chowning, a pioneer of computer music Max Matthews and of course Don Buchla.


It was then her relationship with synthesizers and composing using computers and sequencers began:
She would often go to the San Francisco Tape Music Center (founded by Morton Subotnick and Ramon Sender) and work at Buchla’s factory, soldering and drilling holes in metal for $3 an hour, just so she could use his studio. After a failed attempt of starting up a furniture company, to pay for a synthesizer, she decided to get back into music, and moved to L.A. What made the difference between this Buchla modular and other instruments?

Here's a picture of her portable Buchla system while at work for ABC

Suzanne's breakthrough didn't come as an album or performance. There was no way to monetize this music other than getting a record deal. So Suzanne performed a lot. And while doing quadraphonic sound (only) that didn't always work out, and she hit other walls while trying to take ideas about performance into practice. She moved to New York in 1974 and, with no money, slept on the floor in an apartment of a friend, Phil Glass.

But eventually the recognition for her talent, in doing her electronic music, came in advertising work, making soundtracks to go with TV commercials, to save up to buy her own studio and Buchla 200 of course. An article in the New York Times helped create understanding for what she was trying to accomplish. She had set up her own production company: Ciani/Musica for this work.

During this period, Suzanne would do mostly session work for other musicians' albums, movies, and advertising work. Not only using a Buchla she put a rack full of processors together she'd call the "Voice Box" mainly to process voices and other sounds, it had a vocoder, a frequency follower, an Eventide Harmonizer, a Marshall Time Modulator (and a shepard generator, and some other pieces - source David Letterman show 1980)


Leslie Mona Mathis was one of the engineers working in the studio for the recording of her first solo album "Seven Waves" (1982). It was self financed, at this time, it was very expensive (100.000$) to record an album, and most of Seven Waves was recorded in other studios. The ad work could pay for that, and working with top musicians and producers allowed her to gain a lot of experience. But Suzanne wanted her own albums to be something different than a pop formula that was used in commercials. She wanted this album to be more of a work of art, with a different approach.

By accident Suzanne became one of the icons of the "New Age" music movement. She had made Seven Waves as a healing music record. At some point Suzanne had hit a sort of bump and had a nervous breakdown. Her Buchla 200 was very fragile and broke. It was nearly impossible to have it fixed; because of the shipping it came back even more broken. Then came the radical decision to stop using the Buchla, and to go back to the piano as a main instrument. From her partner, something very close, the 200 System became her worst enemy.

Suzanne moved in 1992 back to L.A. and proceeded to make more albums, of which you can find most here, for which she received wide acclaim and 5 Grammy nominations. Her record label "Seventh Wave" was used to publish many of these records. Pianissimo became her best selling album, many dedicated fans loved her romantic sounding (my interpretation red.) compositions.


But then, fate took another turn; Electronic music became popular again, and the modular synthesizer entered a sort of renaissance. Suzanne also became interested in electronic music again, partly because of the success of Lixiviation" a compilation album by Finders Keepers record label, she got into transferring 30 year old tape, and releasing this as reissues.

One thing led to another. Suzanne got to know another musician living in the same town, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith (known for her recent album EARS) and they collaborated on FRKWYS, a series from the experimental label RVNG Intl.

Suzanne then focussed on getting deeper into the new 200e and (to a lesser degree) into modern production tools like Ableton Live software.



”We made a piece about the sun and its energy and optimism.”