Friday, July 7, 2017

Watch This: Suzanne Ciani Brings Far-Out Synthesis to 80s Kid’s TV


Suzanne Ciani may not be a household name, but the sounds she invented were in every home in America during the early 80s. In addition to her brilliant work as an electronic composer, Ciani pioneered the use of synthesizers to create musical sound effects – like the fizzy pop of a Coke bottle cap (a hard attack of resonance followed by a long decay of white noise) – and 80s advertising embraced it in a big way. Soon her sound effects were in high demand - she even designed the sensual electric coos of the Bally XENON pinball machine.

Ciani became the unofficial spokesperson for the synthesizer in the late 70s and early 80s, appearing on a slew of popular television programs to demonstrate some of the futuristic sounds of this mysterious new instrument.

The new doc A LIFE IN WAVES (playing AFS Cinema July 19 & 22) tells of Ciani’s singular path through the music industry, despite the intense zeitgeist of sexism in commercial music, to become a modern cult figure among electronic music aficionados. Not just a great story about an overlooked artist, the film is a veritable overdose of 80s aesthetic nostalgia, featuring an abundance of rich archival material including Ciani’s commercials, TV appearances and home studio. This is the stuff that Tumblrs are made of.

Here is one TV appearance that somehow didn’t make the cut: in 1980, Suzanne Ciani brought her cosmic synth sounds to the popular PBS kids program "3-2-1 Contact." With the soft-spoken patience of a kindergarten teacher, Ciani breaks down some rather sophisticated concepts of sound and synthesis, all while dropping some pretty spaced-out synth sequences. Check it out, you might even learn a few things yourself.



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