Today we celebrate International Women’s Day by featuring one of the earliest pioneers in electronic and computerized music synthesis and sound design, Suzanne Ciani. Her first album Seven Waves opened up the music world at the time to her belief that “electronic music could be feminine, soft and sensual.” Her early compositions repeatedly included the word ‘wave’ in the title and the sea was a massive inspiration in her work.
Now I’m not sure if Nobuo Uematasu ever referenced this track or mentioned it as part of his inspiration for his work on Final Fantasy’s theme song but I can’t help but draw a plethora of correlations between the two. As with most of the computerized and synthesized music being created at the time arpeggiation played an important factor in the progression of not only sounds and harmonies but the fluidity of the entire composition. In ‘Love In The Waves’ there are some wonderfully delicate layers that weave together as if carried by wind and other natural forces. As we mentioned before Ciani’s goal especially early on in her career was to manifest sounds that countered the more macho, aggressive electronic music being released at the time. The underlying factor that really amazes me is Ciani’s ability to use white and grey noise to replicate the sound of a physical wave crashing on the shore. Magical.
Ciani still records and produces to this day and last year put out a record with Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith called ‘Closed Circuit’. The song was recorded at Ciani’s home in Bolinas with a gorgeous view of the ocean and the accompanying album ‘Sunergy’ manifested from her early interactions with Smith. A big piece to the concept behind the album materialized when Ciani had an epiphany while dealing with how to compose the sunrise,
“I realized that the sun was an electronic energy. It wasn’t the piano; it wasn’t instruments. It was electronic.” – S.C. from her interview with Colin Joyce at THUMP
Suzanne Ciani, is one of the early proponents of analog synthesis. She worked closely with Don Buchla to help him develop his first series of synthesizer. A Boston born, UC Berkley alum Ciani first met Buchla in 1969 while attending the college. She immediately started working with him in his factory and pursued the idea of a new musical instrument that could be used in live performances. While Robert Moog was developing his own technology on the east coast.
Suzanne Ciani | System 55 Moog
As she continued to experiment with sound design and synthesis with new technology Ciani also ventured into the commercial world and did a variety of work including Coca-Cola, Merrill Lynch, AT&T, General Electric and Atari.
As evident by her appearance on the Letterman show in 1980, Ciani was already receiving notoriety for her work and development in the science of sound long before her foray into commercial music.
There’s so much more to explore about this incredible woman and I highly encourage you scour the internet for resources. Here are a few that helped me along the way: