Suzanne Ciani

Electro dance music has never seemed to attract many female producers, but over the years there have been some influential and pioneering female musicians who worked in electronic sound synthesis and composition, like Delia Derbyshire, Suzanne Ciani and (ahem) Wendy Carlos.

Suzanne Ciani

The photo above shows Suzanne Ciani with her ARP String Ensemble, ARP Pro-Soloist and Buchla Modular Synthesizer. She started out working for synth pioneer, Don Buchla (a rival of Bob Moog’s), helping him build his prototypes. She then moved to New York in search of commercial work in order to pay for her personal, avant garde electronic music. She found herself penniless, sleeping on Philip Glass’ floor (in exchange for giving Glass electronic music lessons), before she got her big break at one of the major advertising agencies.

Probably one of Ciani’s most famous sound effects was her first. Bursting into a studio whilst looking for the executive who was meant to be interviewing her, she found herself in the middle of a recording session for a Coca-Cola ad. Due to recording engineers not being able to record the sound of a bottle of Coke being opened and poured satisfactorily, Ciani was asked by the executive (Billy Davis, previously a songwriting partner of Berry Gordy at Motown) if she could synthesise these sounds… she said “sure”, hurried off to get her Buchla synthesizer, came back and recorded the sounds that would be used in Coca-Cola tv commercials worldwide throughout the late 70s:


She went on to create several corporate logo themes, for the likes of Columbia Pictures, ABC, Atari and General Motors, and generated all the telephone sounds for AT&T. She also produced sounds and music for arcade games. I found a great clip of her talking about making music for the Xenon pinball machine, which was shot for the tv series, Omni: The New Frontier (presented by the legend, Peter Ustinov).

Columbia Pictures Television, 1976

Omni: The New Frontier, 1981

For those interested, she was using a Bode 7702 Vocoder. An almost identical version of this vocoder was later made by Moog; the Moog version was used by Wendy Carlos, Yellow Magic Orchestra, Devo and John Carpenter.

Posted by Manny Z

Related Entry:
Delia Derbyshire

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