DIY speaks to a woman who’s been heralded the Diva of Electronic Music, a modern Chopin, she’s been nominated for five Grammys, and her music has been lodged in the minds in households worldwide.
Suzanne Ciani is a delight to talk to. It’s cool enough speaking to someone from San Francisco (sorry in advance, Mum and Dad, for the bill), but talking to Suzanne is like listening to your Grandmother spin yarns from her earlier life, were your Grandmother a lynchpin of electronica.
“The music that first inspired me was romantic and classical music,” Suzanne tells us. “What inspired me was the emotion from the music. And I loved pop music. As soon as you heard music you were transported to a different world. I just found it to be overpowering.”
TV commercials were a field Suzanne Ciani went into in order for her to fund her first album. As evident from ‘Lixiviation’, her new release on Finders Keepers, it’s a format that she not only understands back to front, inside out, but something that she plunged into headfirst. “The track had to be moulded to the visual,” Suzanne explains. “You tried to embody the feeling and the spirit of the product. One of my talents was that I could acknowledge all the visual hits, which you wouldn’t notice when you hear the music.”
“If it’s Columbia Pictures, that has to be big and important; if it’s a soft drink or Skittles, it’s happy. Different products have different emotions and that was always part of the communication. How did you want to make that person feel?”
Sure, we can’t distinguish where the lines of electronica draw back and originate from but, although her name may go unmerited, Suzanne Ciani is very much a piece of the puzzle. She was in demand, hired by everyone from Skittles to Coca-Cola to pen soundtracks for their commercials. “I knew they were being used all over the world but my name wasn’t on it, so it was a very anonymous kind of art form.”
‘Lixiviation’ bridges between Suzanne’s disparate worlds, demonstrating how such material seeped through to the mainstream in unexpected ways. “I didn’t watch television, so I wasn’t even aware of it at the time. I worked on my own in my studio and I was very involved artistically.”
All the while Suzanne experimented with cutting-edge technology to make very weird and underground sounds, and yet her music was being broadcast through televisions and into the family sitting room all around the world!
‘Lixiviation’ is a great introduction to Suzanne Ciani’s illustrious career. It’s not your normal album, but a selection of cunningly sequenced tracks - from long and atmospheric soundscapes, to short-but-sweet commercial logos that blossom away from the visual aid of the commercial it was made for.
“It covers a lot of territory with this release,” Suzanne tells us, and indeed ‘Lixiviation’ dips in and out of different eras in Suzanne’s career, from the early eighties to as far back as the sixties. “There’s a long span covered there. Some of the pieces were recorded in my garage.”
It’s strange to think, in this digital age where every tweet, every song and even this very article is nigh on invincible. But, had it not been for ‘Lixiviation’, Suzanne’s life’s work would have been lost forever. She discovered them in her vaults “on the verge of extinction. Obviously analogue tapes don’t last forever!”
So thank the lord for the archaeologists of the weird and the wonderful, Finders Keepers. “I’m really happy Andy [Votel] asked me to go into my vault. He approached me a few years ago and was very persistent… I rescued these very old recordings that were about to disintegrate. Some of these recordings had to be baked in order to play at all - the timing was critical for this project!”
If you adore electronic music, ‘Lixiviation’ is an absolute must.
Suzanne Ciani’s new album ‘Lixiviation’ is out now via Finders Keepers.