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MUSICIANS USA



SUZANNE CIANI (1982)






Suzanne Ciani apporte une touche féminine au mode de la musique électronique, elle est pour moi la plus sensible des musiciennes électroniques de l'époque 80s


Suzanne Ciani brought sensitivity and romantism in the electronic music world , she was using a lot synths like The Prophet 5 Sci and the Synclavier who were the biggest sampler and also the most expansive one to create tracks for her albums and for a lot of commercial

Suzanne a commencé sa vie avec la musique à l'âge de sept ans lorsque sa mère a la maison une collection d'albums classiques à partir d'une vente de feu de voisinage. Suzanne a été immédiatement séduit par les mélodies de Bach, Beethoven et Mozart. Comme le troisième de six enfants dans un ménage occupé banlieue près de Boston, Suzanne a trouvé son propre espace par elle-même l'enseignement à jouer du piano et à lire la musique.

En tant que premier cycle à Wellseley Collège, Suzanne commence à partager son temps entre la performance et la composition. Elle a également commencé sa fascination pour la technologie quand une de ses classes a pris une excursion à proximité du MIT, où un professeur a démontré ses premières tentatives de rendre un ordinateur de produire le son d'un violon. Après sa graduation, elle est allée à l'Université de Californie à Berkeley pour poursuivre ses études en composition. Elle a reçu sa maîtrise en composition de là, mais plus important encore, à proximité l'Université de Stanford et au Mills College, elle a rencontré trois des fondateurs de la musique électronique: John Chowning, Max Matthews et Don Buchla.

Suzanne est devenu fasciné avec la capacité de produire de la musique avec une machine, et elle devint une adepte de synthétiseurs pour les deux prochaines décennies. Elle a souvent plaisanté en disant que pendant au moins dix ans, elle a été essentiellement mariée à son synthé Buchla, et en fait elle l'a fait quitter la gigantesque machine en cours d'exécution pour les mois à la fois, la programmation pour composer et jouer des compositions infinies.

Il pourrait faire des choses qu'aucun autre instrument dans l'histoire pourrait faire! Il pourrait travailler sous et super sonique, il pourrait tenir une note pendant des jours, il pourrait jouer avec de la poix parfait dans une onde sinusoïdale parfaite. Utilisation de cadrans, boutons et cordons de raccordement, Suzanne engagé dans une danse élégante avec son synthétiseur pour produire ses albums révolutionnaires électroniques, tout en restant toujours fidèle à son sens d'inspiration classique de la mélodie.



Suzanne croit que le synthé devrait suivre son cours comme un instrument, mais sa position a finalement perdu à ceux qui voulaient construire des machines simples qui reproduit les sons d'autres instruments et avaient des voix prédéfinies" Comme ce changement dans le monde de la musique électronique et des instruments est arrivé, Suzanne s'est trouvée retour à l'instrumentation classique à l'appui de ses mélodies, culminant dans son album nominé aux Grammy Awards pour piano et orchestre, "Dream Suite." Cette même sensibilité se manifeste dans «Pianissimo II" et "Turning" ainsi.



SUZANNE CIANI MAGAZINES







Synth pioneer Suzanne Ciani talks Atari, Steve Jobs'

In Tuesday's Times, Grammy-nominated electronic music composer Suzanne Ciani spoke about her new collection, "Lixiviation: Ciani/Musica Inc. 1969-1985," which was released last week on Andy Votel's label Finder's Keepers and Stateside via the L.A.-based B-Music imprint. You can read that story here, but due to space constraints, a large chunk of Ciani's fascinating conversation wasn't included. It bears reading, however, for anyone interested in the early days of synthesizer music. Ciani spoke from her home in Northern California. When you moved to New York in the 1970s and starting working on commercial music, did the synthesizer's uniqueness help you on Madison Avenue, or were agencies hesitant to commit to those new sounds?

"Well, my ambition was always to be a recording artist. But I couldn't get a record deal because it was abnormal, what I wanted to do. I would go to a record company and they’d say, 'Why don’t you sing or play the guitar?' And I’d say, 'Well, I’d like to do a demo,' and they’d say, ‘What do you need?’ ‘Well I need a week in the studio, and they’d say, 'A week? We can give you an hour.' "

It’d take a week to set up your equipment, I bet.


"And I was poor. I loved New York, but I was starving, and really needed money. One morning I woke up and thought, 'Where is the money?' And realized it was in advertising, and that advertising in fact embraced the unknown, and something new. The record companies were looking backwards. They wanted 'one of those.' Something that had already happened. They needed to have this organic evolution, or connection. Whereas in advertising, it was more, 'Wow! We don’t know what this is but it’s exciting. Let’s do it.' In advertising, I had a lot of freedom, because nobody knew what these machines could do, and so I was left on my own to create. And I also got a lot of attention from people making records. Do you know that label CTI?"

Yes.

"That guy, Creed Taylor, he had to have me on every recording."

Ah, I’ve got some CTI records around here.

"I was a big hit with Creed. And I did 'Afternoon Delight' -- anything that needed a special sound."

Wait, you worked on the song “Afternoon Delight” by the Starland Vocal Band?

"Yes -- the sky rockets."

Oh my God, that’s fascinating.

"Yeah, that was with Phil Ramone. I loved working with him. I would bring the Buchla [synthesizer] into the control room, and it has hundreds of little blinking lights and knobs and bells and it’s very compact. A lot of electronic music at that time was done in its own studio because the machines were so big. But the thing about the Buchla is he designed it to be a performance instrument, and so it was compact. And that allowed me to move from studio to studio. So I had a cartage company that followed me, and I could do three or four dates a day when I was a session player, and then, of course, I started my own company."

How did you start working with Atari? Looking back, that was an important period in the world of personal computing, when Atari started rising. And listening to that little melody that you created now brings back a very specific moment in time.

"Yes, it’s part of our DNA. Atari found us. By that time I had a reputation as being the No. 1 sound designer in New York. And we were contacted, and I remember Atari came and gave us one of their games and it was sitting there on the front desk of my studio. In those days, I was so busy. We would get calls, and the next day it was like an emergency room. 'We need this by tomorrow.' And that’s how business was. And it was kind of an around-the-clock production where a job would come in, you’d design the job, if it involved instrumental players as well, the parts were arranged and put under the door of the music copyist’s at midnight, they appeared on the music stand at 9 a.m. It was very intense, which is probably why I burnt out. But, yeah, Atari and Xenon. I think I was the first composer ever hired by Bally."

For what. For ads, or for pinball music?

"Music for a pinball machine. Xenon."

In Tuesday's Times, Grammy-nominated electronic music composer Suzanne Ciani spoke about her new collection, "Lixiviation: Ciani/Musica Inc. 1969-1985," which was released last week on Andy Votel's label Finder's Keepers and Stateside via the L.A.-based B-Music imprint. You can read that story here, but due to space constraints, a large chunk of Ciani's fascinating conversation wasn't included. It bears reading, however, for anyone interested in the early days of synthesizer music. Ciani spoke from her home in Northern California. When you moved to New York in the 1970s and starting working on commercial music, did the synthesizer's uniqueness help you on Madison Avenue, or were agencies hesitant to commit to those new sounds?

"Well, my ambition was always to be a recording artist. But I couldn't get a record deal because it was abnormal, what I wanted to do. I would go to a record company and they’d say, 'Why don’t you sing or play the guitar?' And I’d say, 'Well, I’d like to do a demo,' and they’d say, ‘What do you need?’ ‘Well I need a week in the studio, and they’d say, 'A week? We can give you an hour.' "

It’d take a week to set up your equipment, I bet.

"And I was poor. I loved New York, but I was starving, and really needed money. One morning I woke up and thought, 'Where is the money?' And realized it was in advertising, and that advertising in fact embraced the unknown, and something new. The record companies were looking backwards. They wanted 'one of those.' Something that had already happened. They needed to have this organic evolution, or connection. Whereas in advertising, it was more, 'Wow! We don’t know what this is but it’s exciting. Let’s do it.' In advertising, I had a lot of freedom, because nobody knew what these machines could do, and so I was left on my own to create. And I also got a lot of attention from people making records. Do you know that label CTI?"

Yes.

"That guy, Creed Taylor, he had to have me on every recording."

Ah, I’ve got some CTI records around here.

"I was a big hit with Creed. And I did 'Afternoon Delight' -- anything that needed a special sound."

Wait, you worked on the song “Afternoon Delight” by the Starland Vocal Band?

"Yes -- the sky rockets."

Oh my God, that’s fascinating.

"Yeah, that was with Phil Ramone. I loved working with him. I would bring the Buchla [synthesizer] into the control room, and it has hundreds of little blinking lights and knobs and bells and it’s very compact. A lot of electronic music at that time was done in its own studio because the machines were so big. But the thing about the Buchla is he designed it to be a performance instrument, and so it was compact. And that allowed me to move from studio to studio. So I had a cartage company that followed me, and I could do three or four dates a day when I was a session player, and then, of course, I started my own company."

How did you start working with Atari? Looking back, that was an important period in the world of personal computing, when Atari started rising. And listening to that little melody that you created now brings back a very specific moment in time.

"Yes, it’s part of our DNA. Atari found us. By that time I had a reputation as being the No. 1 sound designer in New York. And we were contacted, and I remember Atari came and gave us one of their games and it was sitting there on the front desk of my studio. In those days, I was so busy. We would get calls, and the next day it was like an emergency room. 'We need this by tomorrow.' And that’s how business was. And it was kind of an around-the-clock production where a job would come in, you’d design the job, if it involved instrumental players as well, the parts were arranged and put under the door of the music copyist’s at midnight, they appeared on the music stand at 9 a.m. It was very intense, which is probably why I burnt out. But, yeah, Atari and Xenon. I think I was the first composer ever hired by Bally."

For what. For ads, or for pinball music?

"Music for a pinball machine. Xenon."

It’s interesting how some of the earliest culture-wide experiences with electronic music came not from hearing it on the radio but through Atari and Xenon, and all these alternate avenues.

"And from the composer’s point of view, it was all so anonymous. You did these things and nobody knew who you were. Everybody heard it. It was an anonymous art form."

Has it surprised you the way that electronic music has evolved over the past 40 years?

"I am totally surprised. You know, I thought it was a lost art form. I met a girl last night -- I was over at Don Buchla’s for dinner, and there was a young student there from Mills [College] that just got her masters degree in electronic music. It’s mainstream now." How do you feel about the term “New Age”? When I worked at a record store, that’s where your music was filed. Did that bother you?

"Well, it became a catch-all. For me -- and you can appreciate this having been in a record store -- before there was a category “New Age,” you didn’t know where to find my albums. They would go into female vocal, they’d go into jazz, they’d go into classical, they’d go into electronic, whatever, but there was no place. The beauty of “New Age” was that it was a focal point in a commercial sense for distribution. And it allowed the product to be found.

OK, that was the main thing for me. In terms of actually enlightening anybody about what the music was, that didn’t happen. The worst part about New Age was the kind of mindlessness of some of the music, but it really became a catchall for instrumental music -- anything that wasn’t jazz and wasn’t by a dead composer. That was classical, and jazz was jazz. So it became everything else. So I’ve always identified more with a classical sensibility. But it helped me to sell a lot of records, to have a category."

Was all of the music on "Lixiviation" recorded on a Buchla?

"No, because over the years I had acquired a lot of instruments. It started out on Buchla, and a lot of it is on Buchla, because it was a booming technology. I had a [Sequential Circuits] Prophet-5, a synclavier, whatever. But the interesting thing about this project is that it includes everything up until my own artistic releases. These are the early things, before I released 'Seven Waves.' "

I like the one titled “Sound of Wetness.” Can you talk about that piece?

"That was a Buchla one. At that time, I was working at Stanford also on computer. I was so lucky. One summer, Max Matthews, who is the father of computer music -- he just died last year, but he’s credited with really starting Music 5, and programs that allowed computers to make music. And Max was at Stanford at the artificial intelligence lab, along with John Chowning, who is the founder of FM [frequency modulation synthesis]; they patented that frequency modulation approach to timbre design. They licensed it to Yamaha, and that’s how the DX7 came about. It was a very elegant way to produce complex sound."

Did you work much with Silicon Valley as the PC era was beginning?

"I was in New York from 1974, and I did work with a lot of technology companies on the chip level. I was invited by Texas Instruments to go down -- I actually had a 'chip agent.' I did a logo for AT&T that they used in the telephone, and he tried to get a royalty [laughs]. Too bad."

Yeah, it'd be nice to get a performance royalty on that, and make money every time it plays.

"I went to the West Coast to work on my second album, 'History of my Heart,' on Private Music, after 'Neverland.' I recorded in California, and [in New York] we had been using a PC. But when I was in Calfornia, I had to transfer everything to MacIntosh, because there wasn’t a soul on the West Coast who used a PC. So that’s how I got into Apple, that was in the early or mid-'80s. Later, when Steve Jobs had Next Computers, I was invited down there to see the Next. I had a lot of interactions.

And we had a thing called Experiments in Art and Technology -- E.A.T. -- that was a consortium of people. We had engineers and artists, and we would get paired off to do projects. It was really fun, because you had all these Silicon Valley engineers who were excited about doing something artistic. I worked with someone and we did something called the Vidium, and it created visual patterns on a television based on the phase of the music -- generated patterns. And we took over the space where the Exploratorium is -- in the old Palace of Fine Arts. We started that space. We went into this huge space and that’s where we had our Experiments in Art and Technology. There was a lot of excitement, because technology really was a synthesis between engineers and artists. If you were an artist using technology, you needed your other half. You needed the engineer, and it was a partnership."

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Suzanne Ciani's plugged-in path

The electronic music maven began carving out a niche for herself over four decades ago, a journey chronicled in her new collection 'Lixiviation.' About 15 minutes into a phone conversation regarding her new collection "Lixiviation: Ciani/Musica, Inc. 1969-1985," electronic music composer Suzanne Ciani tossed out a surprising musical factoid.

In her youth as a busy session player in New York City, her mastery of early portable synthesizers resulted in as many as four gigs a day. It also landed her a guest spot on David Letterman's old daytime show and provided an opportunity to make the tones, moans and Vocoder-enhanced voice of Bally pinball's android seductress Xenon. But her best-known creation arrived when Ciani was hired by producer Phil Ramone in 1975 to craft an electronic sound effect for group called the Starland Vocal Band.

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The idea was to create on the synthesizer the sound of rockets firing through the air during "Afternoon Delight," the lusty hit song about a midday rendezvous.

"Yes," says Ciani, laughing, "the skyrockets." In that and other sessions, she says, she would load the jukebox-sized Buchla synthesizer into the control room, with its "hundreds of little blinking lights and knobs," and commence noisemaking until something stuck. Although now all that processing power and more can be carried on your iPhone, in the '70s Ciani needed a hired mover to travel with her from studio to studio. The work from those sessions became advertisements for Atari computers and Almay lotion, experimental sound sculptures to accompany museum installations, corporate audio logos for Discover magazine and a PBS show called "Inside Story" – and now they're the highlights of "Lixiviation." The album captures a fascinating moment when computer-generated music was easing its way into America's subconscious one corporate tag, quirky pop-fizz and orgasmic missile at a time. Named for a chemistry term that Ciani used for an art gallery commission, the collection features 16 pieces — some, like her Atari audio logo, as brief as seven seconds, others such as "Second Breath," extended synthesizer compositions — that shine a light on the oft-anonymous realm of commercial music composition.

Ciani, who is best known for her string of 1980s and '90s albums such as "Hotel Luna" and "Dream Suite" (both of which earned her Grammy nominations in the new-age category), studied piano and composition at Wellesley College in the 1960s before continuing her education at UC Berkeley, where sound theorists Max Matthews and John Chowning were making revolutionary advances in frequency modulation and synthesis. A friend of Ciani's told her about his neighbor, who was teaching music at Berkeley. "He took me next door to Don Buchla's equally big loft and there was a towering, massive musical module there," recalls Ciani on the phone from her home in Northern California. "For me, this was a meeting that was like destiny. I had been looking for electronic music."

The epiphany, she says, was in the richness of the tones that the machine created, a sensation that's hard to fathom four decades later. "Nowadays, a lot of ears have heard a lot of things, and they don't understand the newness that was part of it back then," says Ciani. "Your ears woke up. The frequency spectrum was so much bigger. It had the high end and the very low end, and you could go to the very top and the very bottom. After hearing that, acoustic music seemed to occur along a very narrow path. It wasn't alive."

Plus, the whole endeavor was much more efficient, she says. "You realized very quickly the challenges of that career, because many composers die without ever hearing their music performed. There was something about electronic music that had the promise of freedom, where I could create my own — and have control of my own — world as a composer. I could do it myself."

But that was easier said than done in the mid-1970s. At that point the closest things to mainstream success in electronic music were Walter Carlos' "Switched on Bach," the quirky novelty hit "Popcorn" by Hot Butter, and Keith Emerson's towering synth castles created as part of Emerson, Lake and Palmer.

Record labels that did express interest wanted Ciani to sing songs, or offered her an hour of studio time when she needed at least a week. "One morning I woke up and thought, 'Where is the money?' And I realized it was in advertising, and that advertising in fact embraced the unknown, and something new. The record companies were looking backwards. They wanted 'one of those' — something that had already happened."

At ad agency studios the enthusiasm was palpable, says Ciani: "It was more, 'Wow, we don't know what this is but it's exciting — let's do it!' In advertising, I had a lot of freedom, because nobody knew what these machines could do, and so I was left on my own to create."

Indeed, it's the kid-in-a-candy-store enthusiasm that drives "Lixiviation" and its tidbits of commercial music and melodic sketches. The spot for hand lotion Almay's 'Eclipse' product feels like something swiped from Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey"; the Coca-Cola "pop-and-pour" logo is memorable exercise in sonic branding; and those of a certain age can't hear her "Atari Video Games Logo" from the late 1970s and not feel a primal affection for the Space Invaders-suggestive tones. Says Ciani of these sonic logos: "It's part of our DNA."

When did you first hear about the MC-8, and how did you come to acquire one?


Well, I have been reminded that I saw, along with Patrick Moraz and Herbie Hancock , a small demonstration that Ralph Dyck gave at AES in LA about 1978. I was about to start my first album, Seven Waves , and I probably just snapped one up right there and then because it was perfect for the orchestrated approach I was taking on that album. Seven Waves was begun in 1979 and first released in Japan in 1982, then on Atlantic Finnadar in 1984 and then on my own label, Seven Waves , in 1994.

This album represented a synthesis of my electronic background, having for the prior 10 years devoted myself exclusively to electronics, with my classical romantic roots from childhood.

Can you describe what sort of synths or other gear you used with your MC-8?

In those days, I was using the Buchla Series 200 , a Sequential Circuits Prophet V , a Synclavier (though I used it more for commercial projects than for my artistic recordings) , a Polymoog , Oberheim OB-X .

Musicians are used to working with computers these days, but in the late 70s this must have seemed like very alien territory to many. Can you comment on how you initially came to grips with making “music by numbers?”

Well, I had spent a good deal of time already working at Stanford in the Artificial Intelligence Lab with Max Mathews and John Chowning on early computer music software and so was familiar with the arms length approach to specifying musical parameters in numbers and punched cards. After the numbers were crunched in an overnight process, out would come the longed for composition! So, the MC-8 provided more immediate gratification, albeit delayed.

To what extent (if any) was your music directly influenced by the process of working with the MC-8?

The excitement of working with music technology was that the constant evolution of the instruments always inspired creativity. With the MC-8, the world of sequencing became much more sophisticated. Sequencing in the Buchla was approached more as a pattern, whereas with the MC-8, I could now program a composed melodic line of great detail and rhythmic variation. I loved that with the MC-8 the strong dependable electronic pulse could be the foundation of the music- and thus very relaxing- but that I could also “romance” the expression to be very feminine as well.

Do you have any interesting or funny anecdotes about working with the MC-8?

When I started recording Seven Waves, for me it was almost a religious experience. I worked all week doing TV music, and then on the weekends would change gears completely, entering a kind of timeless space. Because renting the studio was very expensive, just one weekend was given to recording the tracks for each piece. Even though there was a lot of pressure to accomplish getting all the tracks down, I refused to have stress be a part of the process. My attitude was: “There is nothing to do and everything will get done.”

So, one weekend, as we were setting up the gear in the studio, my assistant realized with horror that he had not made a data tape of the MC-8 info for the piece and that meant that all that pre-production had to be done again in a studio that cost hundreds of dollars an hour! No problem. “There is nothing to do and everything will get done.” So, all the data was re-entered over several hours and on we went.

Did you ever attempt to play live with the MC-8?

Well, on the David Letterman Show one time. I was invited on as a wiz kid “voice distorter,” but was not all that interested in that angle and said I would do the voice processing if they would allow me to play some of my own compositions from Seven Waves. I wrote out some charts for the studio band and prepared some sequences in the MC-8. When I went to push the start button, nothing happened and my brain started racing. What had happened is that after I had set up the equipment before the show, the electrician had unplugged it!! So, all the data had been lost and I made a quick recovery and loaded the data again and everything worked, as you can see from the look of absolute and ecstatic joy on my face. But to my dismay, we were given only about 10 seconds of air time before they cut to commercials! (The MC-8 bit is at 7:08 in the video.)

Can you point to a particular song/recording of yours that represents the best or most involved use of the MC-8?

Yes. The “Third Wave: Love in the Waves ” (also know as “Crystal Springs” ) from Seven Waves. The MC-8 (and the MC-4) was the backbone of the production. This was the piece that used the MC-8 almost exclusively and allowed a very sophisticated orchestration with lots of rhythmic control. I worked with Mitch Farber on the production and he added some astonishingly effective lines that took full advantage of the MC-8. Below I talk about the “written accelerando” that helps to build the climax of this piece. (The pieces were called “waves” because the compositional form was a wave, building to a climax and then receding.)

Can you share any tips, tricks, workarounds, hacks or mods that you came up with while working with the MC-8?

I wish at times like this that I had a better memory! We are talking 30 years ago! LOL.

Do you have any old MC-8 program data (either on tape or paper) that you can share?

Yes. I found some of the production sheets from “The Third Wave” from Seven Waves. I have scanned the score of Bars 46 to 50, where you can see the written out melody with the pitch numbers written above. Then there is a corresponding timing sheet that shows the data for meas. 46 and then some shortcuts for the following bars. And then a worksheet showing the Control Voltages, Step and Gate times.

The score is written in 12/8 and you can see in this section all the flexibility and precision the MC-8 afforded: there is a written accelerando from bars 45 to 52 (at 2:30 in the mp3 above), the beat being divided first into 4, then 5, then 6 (just out of view in bar 52).

Do you still have your MC-8? If so, do you still use it? If not, whatever became of it?

Note: I entered in the above program excerpt, fine-tuned the tempo to match the original, and played the line alongside Suzanne’s original. Some of the note number data is wrong (resulting in minor seconds in a few places), and a few note durations are off, but otherwise it’s very close. I made no attempt to correct any mistakes in her data. Here you can hear my synth line in the left channel, and Suzanne’s original in the right channel:

Living in New York City, I never had the space to store any of the hundreds of electronic units that were part of the ongoing evolution of my studio. If someone finds a unit with an engraved C/M on it (for Ciani/Musica ), though, it was mine! My studio manager engraved everything.


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