Born Suzanne Elizabeth Ciani; daughter of A.W. (a physician) and Ruth Alice (maiden name, Bowman) Ciani; married Joe Anderson (an entertainment attorney). Education: Wellesley College, bachelor's degree; University of California at Berkeley, master's degree in music composition, 1970. Addresses: Office--P.O. Box 303, 41 Ocean Ave., Bolinas, CA 92924-0303. Website--Suzanne Ciani Official Website:

Suzanne Ciani is a composer, recording artist, and record company executive, but she is best known as a pioneer in the field of electronic music. She has received five Grammy nominations and an Indie nomination for Best New Age Album, two Clio awards, a Golden Globe award, and she was designated as Keyboard magazine's Keyboardist of the Year in 1992.

Ciani grew up in a suburb of Boston, the third of six children. When she was five, her mother found a collection of classical music albums at a local sale and brought them home. Ciani immediately fell in love with the music of Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart and, inspired by their work, taught herself to play the piano. She went on to study classical music at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. After graduating she went on to the University of California at Berkeley to earn a master's degree in music composition. While at Berkeley she met synthesizer designer Don Buchla, and was inspired by his instruments and his theories about music. She also met John Chowning and Max Matthews, two other founders of electronic music. The idea of producing music through technology and machines fascinated her, and synthesizers became an integral part of her work.

In an article reprinted on her website, Ciani told Carol Wright of the New Age Voice that at the time, synthesizers were completely new instruments. "The music was not predicated on any other instrument. You could move sound around the room, make notes fly in all directions. You could go from one timbre to another. The sounds were not trying to imitate acoustic instruments such as a flute, for instance; everything was morphing, in transition from one timbre to another, everything in motion."

On her official website, Ciani's biography explained that she often left her synthesizer "running for months at a time, programming it to compose and play endless compositions." The instrument's appeal was that "it could do things no other instrument in history could do. It could work sub and super sonically; it could hold a note for days; it could play with perfect pitch in a perfect sine wave." Ciani was able to combine these attributes with the sense of melody and music that she had gained in her own classical training.

Ciani believed that the synthesizer should be treated as an instrument in itself, but most composers believed that it should simply be used to imitate or replace the sounds of other instruments or voices. This second position ultimately won out, and synthesizers became simplified, with preset voices and options. In response, Ciani returned to more traditional, classical instrumentation in order to present her melodies. A notable example was her album for piano and orchestra, Dream Suite, which was nominated for a Grammy Award. Pianissimo II is another example of this return to a more traditional musical form. In an interview on the Sound on Sound website, Ciani described her musical style. "I'm inspired by nature and the sea and a feeling of openness and freedom. Other than that, I think it's just emotion, triggered by situations and people."

In 1974 Ciani moved back to New York City and founded Ciani/Musica, a commercial production company. The company eventually created music for commercials for clients such as Coca-Cola, Merrill-Lynch, AT&T, and General Electric. Ciani also wrote music for the film The Incredible Shrinking Woman and for the daytime television soap opera One Life to Live. Profits from Ciani/Musica helped Ciani to finance the recording and marketing of her own creative work.

In the early 1980s, after seven years of trying to get a record deal, Ciani wanted to release an album of her work, and she traveled throughout Europe and the United States looking for a record label that would produce it for her. However, few labels understood what she was trying to do, and she found no takers. She told a Sound on Sound interviewer, "From a marketing point of view, they wanted to know if [my music] was like something else or if I sang---because I was female." Then she was inspired to travel to Japan, and within three days she received numerous offers. She told the Sound on Sound interviewer, "In the record business in Japan they listen." She further explained that "there were no telephones, and people just sat quietly in a room listening to the music." Ciani chose the offer that she considered to be the best, and sent in six songs. Because six is regarded as an unlucky number in Japan, the company asked for one more. Ciani's debut album, Seven Waves, became a hit in Japan but was little known in the United States. However, her second album, The Velocity of Love, achieved extensive airtime on American New Age stations, and also gained her a recording deal with RCA. The thrill of the deal was shortlived, however, because RCA was sold to BMG, which put her album on the back shelf. "It was a huge radio hit, and you couldn't even buy the record!," Ciani told Wright. Fortunately, Ciani had not actually sold the rights to the music, but had only licensed it to RCA for five years, so eventually she was able to take the music back.

Her 1998 album Neverland earned Ciani a Grammy Award nomination and solidified her reputation as the foremost woman in the New Age music genre. In 1992 she beat well-known New Age keyboardists Kitaro and Yanni to win the Keyboard magazine Keyboardist of the Year award.

In the early 1990s, after discovering that she had breast cancer, Ciani decided to focus some different priorities. She moved to Bolinas, California, so that she could concentrate on her creative work. Six months later she met her husband, entertainment attorney Joe Anderson. She told Wright, "I don't think one can have a bad experience without being gifted something in the other dimension." She also noted, "Everything that shifted for me in a good way was brought to me by breast cancer. Life is a limited quantity, so you'd better be following your heart."

In 1995 Ciani established her own record label, Seventh Wave, so that she could have creative control over the production and marketing of her work. Her music began to change, moving away from purely electronic sounds and toward the use of traditional instruments. On Dream Suite she returned to her classical roots, recording the album with the 70-piece Young Russian Orchestra. She chose that orchestra because she wanted to work with a youth orchestra, and she knew that the Russians would provide the technical skill and emotion that she wanted in the music. She told Sound on Sound that it was a privilege "to work with these people who have been supported all their lives since they were infants. Now they have no more state support. This wonderful resource is going to disappear and, in fact, is already disappearing [since the fall of the communist regimes in Russia and Eastern Europe]."

Her next album, Pianissimo II, was a solo piano album featuring three new compositions, as well as twelve of Ciani's most popular melodies. It proved to be a successful album, as did Pianissimo III. Ciani told Sound on Sound, "Doing a piece [electronically] and then hearing it kind of naked on the piano is a wonderful thing. Some people might say, 'Are you giving us new pieces or are you just redoing all those old ones?' But for me it's another expression completely."

by Kelly Winters

Suzanne Ciani's Career

Established Ciani/Musica, 1974; composed music for The Stepford Wives, 1975; composed music for The Incredible Shrinking Woman, 1981; established Seventh Wave recording company, 1985; released albums on Private Music record label, 1981-92; composed music for televison program One Life to Live, 1991-93; released albums on Seventh Wave, 1994-.

Suzanne Ciani's Awards

Clio Awards, U.S. Television category, 1981, 1984; Golden Globe award; Keyboard magazine, Keyboardist of the Year, 1992.

Famous Works

Further Reading



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