Tag Archives: Suzanne Ciani

Eight Artists Making Music Built on Buchla Synthesizers

Illustrations by George Wylesol

The history of modular synthesis is so long and tangled that it’s difficult to pinpoint any one creator. But any realistic history of the instrument must include Don Buchla. Buchla’s electronic instruments never achieved the market penetration of widely available models from Moog or Roland. Just take a look at the Buchla 100, the model he built on commission for the San Francisco Tape Music Center with a $500 grant from the Rockefeller Foundation in 1963. A hefty silver cabinet studded with cryptic dials, multi-colored sockets, touch-sensitive panels—and, shockingly, no keyboard—it resembled something you’d find on the deck of the Starship Enterprise rather than what you’d find on stage or in a recording studio.

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Suzanne Ciani: A Lifetime at Electronic Music’s Forefront

Suzanne Ciani

Suzanne Ciani’s life has always been filled with music. Throughout the composer’s Quincy, Massachusetts upbringing, it was deeply cherished. Though her father, an orthopedic surgeon, at one time had dreams of becoming a musician, Ciani’s mother, a housewife wrangling five girls and one boy, was the driving force. She was the one who brought the Steinway piano and classical records into the home that made such a significant impact. Ciani played the Steinway for hours each night, getting lost in Chopin and Rachmaninoff. Music—especially classical music—was an immediate passion for Ciani, one that quickly became the focus of her life and education. After finishing high school, she went to Wellesley College to study classical music.

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Finders Keepers Celebrates 100+ Crate-Digging Releases

Finders Keepers

Much like parents who refuse to play favorites, Finders Keepers’ Andy Votel and Doug Shipton aren’t about to narrow their deep catalogue of more than 100 audacious reissue-heavy releases down to 10 essential records. In attempting to do so, we opened up a dialogue about everything from the modular synth madness of Suzanne Ciani to the long-forgotten acid folk of Susan Christie. There is the one Finders Keepers full-length everyone can agree on: the loopy solo LP Jean-Claude Vannier dropped soon after he arranged the hell out of Serge Gainsbourg’s Histoire de Melody Nelson album.

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Album of the Day: Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith & Suzanne Ciani, “Sunergy”

When Suzanne Ciani moved to Bolinas, California, back in 1992, many of Silicon Valley’s billionaires still had babysitters and Al Gore was just starting to get attention for attacking the first Bush administration about global warming. The coastal artist community is still full of self-governed loners nearly 25 years later, but that doesn’t mean their way of life hasn’t felt threatened by climate change and the Bay Area’s status as a playground for the New Wolves of Wall Street.

Or as a New York Times headline once put it—and this was 16 years ago—“Welcome to Bolinas; Please Keep On Moving.” That story opened with water district president Vic Amoroso pushing back against the village’s popularity with “belligerent young males” by insisting “there is no reason to come to Bolinas. The beaches are dirty, the Fire Department is terrible, the natives are hostile and have a tendency towards cannibalism.”

Suzanne Ciani is not a cannibal. She’s actually quite lovely—a welcoming, Buchla-worshipping synthesist who’s attracted a new generation of fans thanks to several Finders Keepers reissues and recent performances alongside NeoTantrik (a.k.a. Andy Votel and Demdike Stare’s Sean Canty).

The composer’s second coming shows no signs of slowing down with Sunergy, either. Its two side-long pieces are pure reflections of Ciani’s raw surroundings. Cut at home with fellow Bolinas resident Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith as part of RVNG Intl.’s cross-generational FRKWYS series, they’re not quite ambient or avant-garde. “A New Day” and “Closed Circuit” are soothing and unsettling—the sound of a stormy computer age that’s spun out of control, leaving us all gasping for air and meaning among the wires and sine waves. Hooks that are here today, gone tomorrow.

Which makes sense when you consider what Ciani told self-titled not too long ago: “My place isn’t much of an investment because it’s right on a cliff and someday it’ll fall into the sea…. When it’s gone, it’s gone.”

Andrew Parks