Suzanne Ciani, Synth Pioneer, on How She Makes Music Now | Patch Work

Photo by Maria Jose Govea

Few, if any, have accomplished everything that Suzanne Ciani has in the realm of electronic synthesis.

In the early 1970s, she met Don Buchla and began working for him as a soldering technician, and that's where she discovered her love for analog synthesis. By the mid-1970s, Suzanne had pushed analog modular synthesis to new heights—performing with her Buchla modular rig—and surpassing where Don Buchla thought it could go. Unbeknownst to her at the time, she was pioneering a style now commonly referred to as West Coast synthesis.

Throughout the '80s, Suzanne made strides with musical instrument technology and was an active participant at the forefront of various synthesis techniques such as FM and wavetable. In addition, she established a successful sound design company that specialized in sounds and music for television commercials. She not only broke ground for electronic music as a female pioneer but by building a successful enterprise she also defied gender norms that were prevalent at the time.

She has made a full-circle return to the first thing that inspired her love for electronic music, her Buchla modular synthesizer, and she is once again performing with her modular rig worldwide—with some notable new additions to her rig.

In this episode of Patch Work, Suzanne joins our host, Fess, to talk about her illustrious career in electronic music. They also get into her current Buchla modules in her performance case and how she breathes new life into her Buchla sets using a hybrid setup with iPads and custom Eventide H9s. In addition, she explains why it's critical to have a quadraphonic sound system at every venue she performs.

Find our previous episodes of Patch Work, which features discussions with modular artists and synth builders, below. To learn more about Ciani's work and her reemergence as a Buchla artist, read our 2016 article "Spotlight On: Suzanne Ciani."

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