A conversation with Golden Globe award winning artist, Suzanne Ciani on her pioneering work in electronic musicFeatured
I spoke with Suzanne Ciani, a renowned musician, sound designer, and composer. She is best known for her innovative electronic music and has earned numerous awards, including a Golden Globe, an INDIE award, and five Grammy nominations for Best New Age Album. Suzanne is known as “America’s first female synth hero” for her pioneering impacts in electronic music. Currently, she runs her own record label, Seventh Wave, which she founded in 1995. She has also founded Ciani-Musica, a commercial production company that pioneered the field of sound design and created award-winning music for Fortune 500 clients. Could you discuss the trends you have seen in the electronic music space?I am an artist who uses technology through collaborative processes. For example, I worked closely with the engineer Don Buchla, who designed the first analog music system. Over time, I have also worked with boutique designers and recently have seen thousands of iterations of analog music instruments. In the early days, these systems were incredibly hands on with no digital interface, but when larger corporations took over, they lost sight of the essence of what these machines could be about. They strayed further away, integrating too much digital technology and forgetting the connection between music and the human body. Today, we’re re-examining earlier designers like Buchla to study the physical interfaces of human and machine. Music technology is essentially a collaborative process between the engineer and musician. We need both perspectives. In isolation, the technology can move too quickly without considering the underlying needs and ultimate implications. Can you share more about the need for diversity?The motherly energy system and instincts we have in our DNA as women is something we should embrace. My albums have, in a way, been like my children, and this energy has been incredibly helpful for me in nurturing them. Women bring a unique approach to music creation that the industry needs. They have an original voice.In my day, women were quite invisible, but I met and built relationships with incredible women. My mentor, Ilse Bing, for example, was an 80-year old photographer when we met, called “the Queen of the Leica,” and we have had a connection forever. I saw electronic music give women freedom and an edge. Because women had been kept out of traditional music circles (orchestral music/boy bands), they were not yet invested in the existing paradigms, and so they embraced the new electronic music head on. Men, in contrast, were invested in certain traditions and so they were hesitant to innovate. What is your advice on collaboration?In the past, I have enjoyed having lots of control over the production of my music. Now that I’m older, I’m more relaxed and am open to exploring opportunities with other musicians, classical or electronic. You need to stay fluid and keep moving. What has been a constant source of inspiration for you? From the beginning, I had a lifelong vision that I would be in music, but I did not know what exact form it would take. I have always thrived on challenges and do not feel we need to make things easier. Challenges have made me more constructively stubborn and have truly measured my commitment. I love taking that energy and applying it to areas where large scale problems intersect with my passions. It was a pleasure learning more about the intersection of music and technology from the incredible Suzanne Ciani. Comment here with what you found surprising or inspiring and any follow up questions you have for Suzanne!