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Introducing Suzanne Ciani


Suzanne Ciani was one of the first female electronic musicians to make a living from composing electronic music. Studying music and composition at the University of California, Berkeley was the starting point of her career and on seeing her professor compose sounds from computers, the 60’s cemented Ciani’s interest in electronic composition.

Fixated on the idea of composing herself, Ciani began working under famous synthesizer creator Don Buchla and helped Buchla to build the Buchla series 100 modular synthesizers.


The Buchla synthesizer (seen above) combines many different components which separately generate or modify a music event. Each box on the synth served a function which included oscillators, amplifiers, envelope generators and analog sequencer modules. Using the different modules, allowed you to alter the pitch, timbre, amplitude, and spatial location of the sounds and the Buchla synthesizer was was controlled with an array of touch and pressure-sensitive surfaces. Along with Robert Moog’s Moog synthesizer, the Buchla synthesizer helped revolutionize the way electronic music and sound is made.

Working on the Buchla synthesizers led Ciani to eventually open a business which allowed her to subsidise performing commercially with the synthesizer

Performing on the Buchla has nothing to do with a keyboard or with notes,” Ciani explains. “It’s a living compositional form. The Buchla has no memory; you switch from one sound to another manually. It’s spatial and full of movement. It’s architectural.

Ciani’s compositions included many film scores, commercial theme tunes and computer game tracks, some of which included the Star Wars theme, Atari game soundtracks and Xenon, the first arcade pin ball machine to use digitally sampled sound clips.

Click through to the video below in which Ciani appears on the children’s television show 3-2-1 Contact. This is great video for anyone interested in the way a synthesizer works, and Ciani clearly demonstrates how synthetic sounds are made.

Suzanne Ciani is still recording and last year the album a best of album ‘Lixiviation’ was released worldwide. Her back catalogue of releases can be viewed on Finders Keepers records whilst she can also be found on Twitter.

Article by Stefanie Chew


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