If you’ve ever heard Meco’s classic space disco version of the Star Wars theme, or played the Xenon pinball machine, or saw the original Atari TV commercials, then you’ve heard the pioneering electronic music of Suzanne Ciani. From her earliest days studying with Don Buchla at UC Berkeley and Max Mathews at Stanford to her commercial work in the 1970s and 1980s to Grammy-nominated New Age music in the 1990s, Ciani has been a prolific composer and electronic music innovator. Here is a 1979 interview with her about creating the sounds for Bally’s Xenon pinball machine:
The excellent Finders Keepers Records has just issued Suzanne Ciani: Lixiviation, a fantastic collection of her early recordings — TV spots, corporate IDs, advertising jingles, and other short bits of brilliance.
From Finders Keepers:
A classically trained musician with an MA in music composition this American Italian pianist was first introduced to the synthesizer via her connections in the art world when abstract Sculptor and collaborator Harold Paris introduced Suzanne to synthesizer designer Don Buchla who created the instrument that would come to define Ciani’s synthetic sound (The Buchla Synthesiser). Cutting her teeth providing self-initiated electronic music projects for art galleries, experimental film directors, pop record producers and proto-video nasties Suzanne soon located to New York where she quickly became the first point of call for electronic music services in both the underground experimental fields and the commercial advertising worlds alike. Counting names like Vangelis and Harald Bode amongst her close friends Suzanne and her Ciani Musica company became the testing ground for virtually any type of new developments in electronic and computerized music amassing an expansive vault of commercially unexposed electronic experiments which have remained untouched for over 30 years… until now.
Suzanne Ciani is an Italian American pianist and music composer who found early success with innovative electronic music. She received classical music training at Wellesley College and obtained her M.A. in music composition in 1970 at University of California, Berkeley where she met and was influenced by the synthesizer designer, Don Buchla. She studied computer generated music with John Chowning and Max Mathews at Stanford’s Artificial Intelligence Labs in the early 70′s.
In 1974 she formed her own company, Ciani/Musica, and, using a Buchla Analog Modular Synthesizer, composed scores for television commercials for corporations such as Coca-Cola,Merrill Lynch, AT&T and General Electric. Besides music, her specialty was reproducing sound effects on the synthesizer that recording engineers had found difficult to record properly; the sound of a bottle of Coke being opened and poured was one of Ciani’s most widely recognized works, and was used in a series of radio and television commercials in the late 1970s. Such was the demand for her services that at one point she was doing up to 50 sessions a week. Her sound effects also appeared in video games (the pinball game Xenon featured her voice).
In 1977, Ciani provided the sound effects for Meco’s disco version of the Star Wars soundtrack, which was certified platinum. Ciani scored the Lily Tomlin movie The Incredible Shrinking Woman distinguishing her as the first solo female composer of a major Hollywood film, Lloyd Williams’s 1975 experimental film Rainbow’s Children and a 1986 documentary about Mother Teresa, as well the TV daytime serial (“soap opera”) One Life to Live.
A two in one App.
DevoBots is a digital robot assembly kit and it is also a music synthesizer. The user can create millions of robots out of the box using DevoBot assets to build their very own DEVO, mimicking the bands outfits and personas from the past 40 years. And Devobots is also a modular synthesizer where the user can play, mix and record their very own music and sounds by using and manipulating original, unreleased DEVO sounds and music from banks of sounds stored within the app.
As the app evolves, users will also be able download new Asset and Sound packs as they become available through In App Downloads. This will make the app ever expanding and modular, being able to download ‘add ons’ to keep the app growing.
Other Features include outputting Devobots as online avatars, desktop images, posters, Tee shirts and apparel, animations mixed with your music creation within the app and you will also be able to create Vinyl Toy Figurine designs, that you can submit to Kit Robot from the app, for creation.
Monkeys + Synthesizers is a project where 6 different spieces of monkeys (and some others) were given different synthesizers. Do monkeys like music and do they enjoy creating music?
Humans are the only species on earth that actually compose music. Most birds and some mammals make beautiful sounds, but primarily to scare others away — or to get laid. The project explores if other primates can make music.
In the 60s, the Chimpanzee Congo became famous when he painted abstract paintings that got pretty good reviews by art critics. He had a distinct style in some sort of abstract expressionistic tradition. He liked red a lot but didn’t he like blue. Today, some of his paintings are worth up to 20.000 €.
Since the synthesizers was invented, the musicians have been asked “Is this really making music? You just press a button and out comes music, right?” Well… you do press buttons, twist knobs and faders, but there are endless ways of doing this. That is why the synthesizer probably is the greatest musical instrument in history. A great example of human ingenuity and engineering — something that makes us different from the monkeys.
Dwarf Monkey (Callithrix pygmaea)
Habitat: The Upper Amazonas. Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, north Bolivia and west Brazil.
Length: 13 cm, tail 19 cm.
Weight: 120 — 150 g
Age: 5-10 years.
Diet: Tree gum, fruit, insects and spiders.
World’s smallest monkey
Bleeptronic 5000 (Thinkgeek.com)
64 LED button matrix synthesizer.
Weight: 400 g
Dimensions: 15 x 15 cm.
Production year: 2010
Lion tamarin (Leontopithecus rosalia rosalia)
Habitat: Close to river Sao Joao and in the Poco d´Anta nature reserve, south west of Rio de Janeiro.
Length: 34-40 cm, tail 26-38 cm
Weight: 630-710 g
Age: Up to 20 years
Diet: Fruit, flowers, insects, frogs, lizards and bird’s eggs.
One of world’s most rare monkeys.
TR-909 (Roland Corporation)
Analog, partially sample based drum machine
Dimensions: 48 x 10 x 30 cm
Weight: 4500 g
Production year: 1984
Hamadryas Baboon (Papio Hamadryas)
Habitat: North east Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.
Length: Max 76 cm, tail max 61 cm
Weight: Female 10-13 kg, male 17-25 kg.
Age: Up to 35 years
Diet: Grass, roots, fruit, seeds, insects, lizards and sometimes small mammals
Their red ass make them look sexy and also serves as a pillow
Casiotone CT-360 (Casio)
Incredibly crappy digital synthesizer
Dimensions: 59 x 24 x 9 cm
Weight: 4.2 kg
Production year: 1987
Ring Tailed Lemur (Lemur Catta)
Habitat: South west Madagaskar.
Length: 50 cm
Age: 25-30 years
Diet: 70% fruit, 30% leafs
Yamaha DX7 (Yamaha)
16 voice FM Digital Synthesizer
Dimensions: 101 x 10 x 33 cm
Weight: 14500 g
Production year: 1983
6 sine wave operators per voice, 32 Algorithms
Suricate (Suricata suricatta)
Habitat: Semi-deserts in southern Africa.
Length: 25 cm.
Weight: 900 g
Age: 10-15 years.
Diet: Insects, lizards, scorpions, small birds, eggs, rodents and other small mammals.
Suricates can survive bites from poisonous scorpions and snakes that would kill a human.
Mirage EPS16 (Ensonic)
Dimensions: 102 x 11 x 31 cm
Weight: 13000 g
Production year: 1988
8 note polyphonic, 8 bit, 32 khz sample rate, analog filters
Two-toed Sloth (Choloepus hoffmanni)
Habitat: Central America from Nicaragua and south to Venezuela, north east Brazil and nothern Peru.
Length: 58-70 cm.
Weight: 4-12 kg.
Age: 12 years, (up to 30 years in zoo).
Diet: Leaves, sprouts and fruit.
Sloths have the lowest and most varied body temperature of all mammals. It varies between 24° and 33°.
Yamaha SHS-10 (Yamaha)
Keytar FM synthesizer
Dimensions: 67 x 28 x 6 cm
Weight: 3.4 kg
Production year: 1987
Camera operators: Andreas Tilliander, Mats Almegård and Johan Östman. Concept by Håkan Lidbo.
Thanks to Bosse Johnsson and Jonas Wahlström at Skansenakvariet, Jörgen Berggren at Berggren Media, Jon Nensén and Daniel Sällstedt.
Voltfestivalen — The place to go to experience the best new electronic music and art
Skansenakvariet — The place to go to experience unique wildlife in Stockholm