Sonic Sculptor: Suzanne Ciani

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In 1968, Suzanne Ciani was a music student at UC Berkeley when she met Don Buchla. Buchla had just created one of the first electronic musical instruments, a modular synthesizer. It looked like an old telephone switchboard with knobs and wires, dials and faders. Ciani fell in love with it. And it became the catalyst to her career - one of the most consequential and influential music careers of the 20th century. Ciani has been nominated for five Grammy Awards for Best New Age Album. Her warm, inviting electronic compositions have inspired numerous modern, avant-garde synth composers.

But, without even knowing, it's far more likely you've heard Ciani's work in the commercial space.

Ciani tells Lost Notes about balancing her commercial work with her artistic career - and how the two worlds became symbiotic. "I learned so much doing commercial work,” Ciani says. "I learned studio techniques, production techniques. I think they really were synergistic; my commercial work really did support my artwork, [though] not in obvious ways.”

With both her commercial and her artistic work, Ciani inspired a whole generation of synth musicians, including featured sound artists

Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith and Leticia Trandafir who reveal the path Ciani forged for them.

Suzanne in studio, timelapse.

Suzanne Ciani in Keyboard Magazine.

1977 Promo Flier. Photo credit: Bob L.

Suzanne Ciani, live at RBMA Buchla Concert, 2016. Photo credit: Maria Jose Govea.

Suzanne Ciani live at Terraforma, June 2017. Photo credit: Michela Di Savino.

Suzanne Ciani live at Terraforma, June 2017.




This episode was written, produced, and scored by Michelle Macklem.
Special thanks to Andrew Huang, Leticia Trandafir, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, and Tim Taylor for contributing to this documentary.
Michelle Macklem scored this piece on the Buchla 200 and 200-E.

Producer: Myke Dodge Weiskopf
Associate Producer: Paulina Velasco
Executive Producer: Jessica Hopper
Creator and Executive Producer: Nick White