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Baker's Dozen

Soul Soothers: Suzanne Ciani's Favourite LPs
Jude Rogers , May 31st, 2017 08:02

Ahead of her appearance at the environmentally sustainable electronic music festival Terraforma, Suzanne Ciani talks Jude Rogers through her favourite 13 albums, from Roxy Music to Pavarotti via Terry Riley and Eva Cassidy, Carole King and Penderecki

One Californian morning on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, synthesiser supremo Suzanne Ciani is being bothered by noise. "I'm sorry about the chaos, I have a stonecutter here," she says brightly down the phone, her tone one a perky primary school teacher. "It sounds like a war zone, but I have to have work done to fortify my house. I live on a cliff on the ocean an hour north of San Francisco Bay, and we've had a really wet spring… it's a constant fight against nature to be here." Sounds terrifying, I say. "Not really," she says, one imagines with a sweet shrug. "Nothing better to make you live in the moment!"

Ciani, 71, is an electronics pioneer with a staggering CV. A film of her life,A Life In Waves, is currently touring music festivals internationally, as is she, playing on an updated version of the Buchla synthesiser she first fell in love with as a young student at Berkeley University (she began her career as a classically trained pianist and composer). "But no-one knew what to do a with a woman with a synthesiser when I started going around record companies in the early days," she explains, settling down in a room on the other side of her house. "I was told there was no audience for me, so I started doing things myself." She set up her own electronic music company, Ciani/Musica, going around businesses, art galleries and film companies, offering to make them new, fascinating sounds (some of this this material is archived on the 2012 Finders Keepers compilation Lixiviation), and ended up inventing the famous "pop and pour" sound effect for Coca-Cola, the start-up music for Atari, and sound effects for the Xenon pinball machine. She later become the first female solo composer of a Hollywood film soundtrack (the eerie score to 1981's The Incredible Shrinking Woman is hers), before finally releasing a solo album in 1982, the proto-New Age Seven Waves.

Now 71, she released a Buchla-based EP last year, Sunergy, with Kathryn Aurelia Smith, and recently won a Moog Innovation Award at Moogfest in North Carolina, where Flying Lotus, Animal Collective and Michael Stipe also performed. "I don't know how long it will last," Ciani says of her revived career. "With the kind of instrument I play, which is so fragile but so fantastic, every time I travel with it, and I land. I'm wondering whether this'll be my last gig. But the idea that it could all be over tomorrow…" She laughs. "It keeps the blood running."

Click the image of Suzanne below to begin reading through the selections. For more information about the Terraforma Festival please visit their website

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