Suzanne Ciani, Electronic Music Pioneer, On A Life Of Innovation [INTERVIEW]

1In this interview, George Howard chats with Suzanne Ciana, a musical pioneered who broke new ground in defining electronic music. Here she discusses the progression of her career, as well as the premier of a documentary about her life's work.


Guest post by George Howard on Forbes

Suzanne Ciani is a music pioneer who in many ways defined electronic music. She speaks to George Howard about her career journey and the premiere of a documentary on her life's work.

Sometimes the world lines up. International Women's Day is resonant and profound on so many levels. Who knows definitively where the music industry falls along the spectrum of injustices foisted upon women. My guess, based on 25 years or so of participation, is it tends closer towards abject awfulness with respect to gender inequality than other industries. This makes it all the more significant that, purely serendipitously, I was able to speak to my friend and electronic music pioneer, composer and platinum certified artist, Suzanne Ciani on International Women's Day in front of a group of Berklee College of Music Students, a group, by the way, that was roughly 50% female. For full disclosure, I am an Associate Professor at Berklee College of Music.

You can listen to our entire conversation here.

Ciani talked about how she innovated and developed modular instruments with Don Buchla, which set her on a path the ultimately led to, among other things, her unexpected radio hit, "Velocity of Love" and establishing the New Age format. Along the way, she created her own label at a time when that really just wasn't done (and certainly not by women).

Ciani's most striking anecdote entailed what led to her supplying the iconic bubble and fizz sound design for a Coke jingle, and thus becoming one of the first female composers for ads. What struck me about this story was that it truly was a result of reaching a level of anger and frustration—i.e., "nothing left to lose"—and barging, unannounced, into a session being helmed by legendary songwriter and producer of music and jingles, Billy Davis.

Many of the highlights of our conversation are presented in the recently premiered documentary, A Life In Waves, that chronicles Ciani's amazing career.

More recently, Ciani has seen the reissue, via the Finders Keepers, the label of her early work, and the related renaissance of modular synthesizer music. Additionally, she will be performing at the Voltage Connect Conference at Berklee.

People say that art transcends gender, race and ideology, and perhaps it does…in its final form. However, few who haven't experienced it firsthand know the challenges related to gender, race and ideology that must be overcome for this art to emerge.

What a thrill, therefore, to speak to Ciani–someone who not only knows the challenges, but blazed the trail for others to follow–on International Women's Day in front of a group of emerging music business innovators, and to learn about her remarkable journey to the enduring music.


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