Suzanne Ciani

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Suzanne Ciani
Suzanne Ciani 2012.jpg
Suzanne Ciani (2012)
Background information
Born (1946-06-04) June 4, 1946 (age 72)
GenresNew age, electronic, avant-garde
Occupation(s)Musician, sound designer
InstrumentsPiano, keyboards
Years active1975–present
LabelsFinnadar/Atlantic, RCA Skylark, Private Music, Seventh Wave

Suzanne Ciani (born June 4, 1946) is an Italian American pianist, composer and sound designer who found early success with innovative electronic music and quadraphonic sound[1].


Of Italian descent, she received classical music training at Wellesley College and obtained her M.A. in music composition in 1970 at University of California, Berkeley, where she met and was influenced by the synthesizer designer, Don Buchla. She studied computer generated music with John Chowning and Max Mathews at Stanford University's Artificial Intelligence Labs in the early 1970s.[2]

Career in music[edit]

In 1974 she formed her own company, Ciani/Musica, and, using a Buchla Analog Modular Synthesizer, composed scores for television commercials for corporations such as Coca-Cola, Merrill Lynch, AT&T and General Electric. Besides music, her specialty was reproducing sound effects on the synthesizer, that recording engineers had found difficult to record properly; the sound of a bottle of Coca-Cola being opened and poured was one of Ciani's most widely recognized works, and was used in a series of radio and television commercials in the late 1970s. She is also responsible for "logo" sounds pertaining to Energizer and ABC.[3] Such was the demand for her services, that at one point she was doing up to 50 sessions a week. Her sound effects also appeared in video games (the pinball game Xenon featured her voice[4]). Such audio logos as the Coca-Cola pop and pour along with video game sound effects and more appear on the 2012 album Lixiviation (Finders Keepers) along with the only currently available excerpts from her 1975 Buchla Concert.[5]

In 1977, Ciani provided the sound effects for Meco's disco version of the Star Wars soundtrack, which was certified platinum. She added the signature electronic "swoosh" to Afternoon Delight by the Starland Vocal Band. At the time, Ciani thought the work was just a "song about spaceships".[6] Ciani scored the Lily Tomlin movie The Incredible Shrinking Woman, distinguishing her as the first solo female composer of a major Hollywood film; Lloyd Williams's 1975 experimental film Rainbow's Children; and a 1986 documentary about Mother Teresa, as well the TV daytime serial ("soap opera") One Life to Live. She also composed the 1976 Columbia Pictures and Columbia Pictures Television theme jingles.[7] She has toured throughout the United States, Italy, Spain, and Asia. In 1980, Ciani demonstrated several of her sound effects on The David Letterman Show.[8] However, while she started performing her own music, Letterman cut her to a commercial break.[9]

In 1982 Ciani began to record albums in the new-age genre, characterized by a mix of electronic and traditional instruments. Her first album, Seven Waves, was initially released in Japan in 1982, and later released in her native US in 1984 through Atlantic Records. Most of the album was produced using Roland MC-8 and MC-4 music sequencers, combined with a Prophet 5 synthesizer and Roland TR-808 drum machine.[10]

Her 1986 album The Velocity of Love, released by RCA Records, featured Ciani's best known song, the title track. In 1987 she signed to the Private Music label, which released a number of albums from 1988 to 1992, including re-issues of her first two albums. Although emphasizing electronic music in her recordings, her solo piano album Pianissimo, from 1990, became her best-selling album. Ciani ended her contract with Private Music with the compilation The Private Music of Suzanne Ciani, in 1992.

In the 1990s Ciani founded her own music label, Seventh Wave, on which she has released all her subsequent albums, which have been more classically oriented than her previous recordings. 1994's Dream Suite was recorded in Moscow with the Young Russia Orchestra, and was Grammy-nominated. 1999's Turning featured her first composition with lyrics, in the title track, sung by Taiwanese artist Chyi Yu.

In early 2006, Ciani's Silver Ship won in The 5th Annual Independent Music Awards for Best New Age Album.[11] Ciani was also an inaugural member of the Independent Music Awards' judging panel to support independent artists.[12]

In 2014, she started a Kickstarter campaign to fund a documentary movie on her life as an electronic music pioneer. The campaign was successful, and the award-winning[13] film, titled A Life in Waves, had its premiere on March 12, 2017 at the South by Southwest Festival, did the festival rounds and is now released on DVD.

In 2016, Ciani released Sunergy, a collaboration using Buchla synthesizers with the musician Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, as part of the RVNG Intl. FRKWYS Series.[14]

In 2017, Ciani was awarded the 2017 Moog Music Innovation Award, to be awarded at Moogfest later in the year.[15]

On her birthday June 4th, 2018, Ciani with producer KamranV released LIVE Quadraphonic with a numbered Quadraphonic vinyl package available for direct pre-order and at Ace Hotel locations around the world[16]. The performance, recorded live at Gray Area in San Francisco on March 5, 2016[17], was her first solo Buchla synthesizer performance in 40 years, beginning a string of exclusively quadraphonic performances around the world at events including Ableton LOOP, Marfa Myths, MOCA Detroit, Moogfest, Terraforma, Red Bull Music Academy, Sonar, and SXSW. This release was the first quadraphonic vinyl release in over 30 years[18].

Suzanne’s performance at Gray Area, like every other since that day have been in the long forgotten Quadraphonic format; the earliest true 360° listening format of which the original Buchla 200 synthesizer natively output via the Buchla 227 quad output module. Since that performance, a global array of sonic experts[19] have worked together to rebirth this Quadraphonic vinyl LP.

For this experimental release and inspired by the Buchla 227 quad output module, there is a limited edition of only 227 LPs, numbered, 45 rpm, 180g quadraphonic vinyl discs[20] sold, plus a custom quadraphonic hardware decoder made in collaboration with Involve Audio to decode two channels of audio from the vinyl disc back to the four-channel recording. The vinyl discs were pressed at Jack White’s Third Man Pressing plant in Detroit, MI and are fully compatible for play with any vinyl playback systems in stereo. Current owners of vintage Regular Matrix quadraphonic receivers (and to a slightly less accurate degree Dolby Pro Logic II receivers in music mode) may also listen to LIVE Quadraphonic in quad via any format: digital download, streaming, radio broadcast or vinyl.

To celebrate Suzanne Ciani’s LIVE Quadraphonic release, dublab live broadcast the album from its vinyl test pressing as a part of its annual pledge drive, June 4th, 2018 at Noon Pacific Time. The nearly 20-year-old nonprofit pioneer of online radio also had Suzanne live on-the-air for a live interview.

Awards and honors[edit]

  • Moog Innovation Award, 2017
  • Nominee, Grammy Award for Best New Age Album: Neverland (1988), Hotel Luna (1991), Dream Suite (1996), Pianissimo II (1997), Turning (2000)
  • Best New Age Keyboardist, Keyboard magazine, 1992
  • Lifetime Achievement Award (Granny), Women in Audio Section of the Audio and Engineering Society, 1997
  • Winner, American Federation of Independent Music (Indie), Silver Ship, 2006
  • Most Valuable Synthesizer Player Award, National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, 1987
  • Clio Awards, Excellence in Advertising, 1977–1989
  • Bronze Lion Award for Excellence in Advertising, International Advertising Film Festival, 1985



Studio albums

  • 1970 Voices of Packaged Souls (originally a very limited release, re-released widely in 2012)
  • 1991 Hotel Luna
  • 1994 Dream Suite
  • 1996 Pianissimo II
  • 1997 A Very Green Christmas (various artists; two tracks from Ciani)
  • 1997 Suzanne Ciani and The Wave Live!
  • 1999 Turning
  • 2001 Pianissimo III
  • 2005 Silver Ship
  • 2012 Lixiviation
  • 2012 Logo Presentation Reels 1985
  • 2016 Buchla Concerts 1975
  • 2018 LIVE Quadraphonic


  • 1992 The Private Music of Suzanne Ciani
  • 2002 Meditations for Dreams, Relaxation, and Sleep
  • 2003 Pure Romance

With other artists[edit]


  • 1997 Suzanne Ciani and The Wave Live!
  • 2008 Natura Poetica
  • 2008 Galapagos: A Musical Odyssey


  • 1991 Suzanne Ciani: New Age Piano (Hal Leonard)
  • 1995 Suzanne Ciani: Dream Songs (Hal Leonard)
  • 1999 Suzanne Ciani: Turning (Hal Leonard)
  • 2007 The Best of Suzanne Ciani (Hal Leonard)

Film scores[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Analog Surround-Sound Is Reborn on a New Quadraphonic LP". WIRED. Retrieved 2018-06-08.
  2. ^ "Outsight Radio Hours interview". Retrieved 29 April 2012.
  3. ^ Pinch 2004, p. 778.
  4. ^ Xenon at the Internet Pinball Database
  5. ^ "Outsight Radio Hours interview". Retrieved 29 April 2012.
  6. ^ "Outsight Radio Hours interview". Retrieved 29 April 2012.
  7. ^ Doran, John (5 April 2012). "Modular Love: Suzanne Ciani Interviewed". The Quietus. Retrieved 20 January 2015.
  8. ^ Hutchinson, Kate (May 20, 2017). "Making sounds with Suzanne Ciani, America's first female synth hero". The Guardian. Retrieved December 19, 2017.
  9. ^ Richards, Chris (February 24, 2012). "Suzanne Ciani's retrospective showcases her groundbreaking musical fireworks". Washington Post. Retrieved December 19, 2017.
  10. ^ db: The Sound Engineering Magazine, July 1972, pages 28-32
  11. ^ Independent Music Awards – 5th Annual Winners Archived 2009-02-28 at the Wayback Machine.
  12. ^ Independent Music Awards – Past Judges Archived 2011-07-13 at the Wayback Machine.
  13. ^ A Life in Waves, retrieved 2018-06-21
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Announcing Suzanne Ciani as the Recipient of the 2017 Moog Innovation Award". MoogFest. Moog Music. Retrieved 15 May 2017.
  16. ^ "Suzanne Ciani Masters "LIVE Quadraphonic" Vinyl at Bernie's". EMusician. Retrieved 2018-06-08.
  17. ^ "Moogfest: Dial-Tones with Suzanne Ciani - Gray Area Art & Technology". Gray Area Art & Technology. Retrieved 2018-06-08.
  18. ^ "The Unlikely Return of Quadraphonic Vinyl". Retrieved 2018-06-08.
  19. ^ "The Unlikely Return of Quadraphonic Vinyl". Retrieved 2018-06-08.
  20. ^ "Analog Surround-Sound Is Reborn on a New Quadraphonic LP". WIRED. Retrieved 2018-06-08.

External links[edit]