Diva of the Diode

In 1968, the same year that Wendy Carlos and her Moog synthesiser helped reinvent the sound and image of classical music with "Switched-on Bach", Suzanne Ciani had an electronic epiphany of her own.

On a trip to Berkley’s MIT campus, she encountered a rogue professor who had spent the entire physics budget trying to synthesise the sound of a violin. Upon hearing his wild experiments, Ciani – herself frustrated at the constraints of classical instrumentation – decided to devote herself to this radical new approach to composition. It was a decision that would lead her to become one of the most innovative electronic musicians of the last 40 years.

Ciani was the first woman to score a major Hollywood film, and in the 1970s, she composed music for commercials, most famously the sound of a Coke bottle being opened. She even did an electro disco cover album of the Star Wars music.

In 2016, Ciani released Buchla Concerts 1975, formed of two live performances in New York City in April 1975. She was asked to release some archived material and following its release and "All of a sudden I was in the public eye with the electronics again! I wasn't aware at all about what was going on; it felt strange. [...] There was this whole renaissance going on when I came out".

Buchla then convinced Ciani to purchase a Buchla synthesizer from him following his decision to sell his company, but she left it for a year before she started to use it. Ciani then released Sunergy, a collaboration using Buchla synthesizers with the musician Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, as part of the RVNG Intl. FRKWYS Series.

In May 2017, Ciani became the first female to receive a Moog Music Innovation Award at the annual electronic festival Moogfest. As part of the celebrations, she agreed to make this Synth Hero mix for my show.

Read my interview with Suzanne


1. Donato Dozzy and Anna Caragnano – “Fraledune”
The thing I like about Donato is that he has a very refined sense of sound. This is part of his vocal experimentation with Anna Caragnano. 

2. Jonathan Fitoussi – “Immersion”
Jonathan is a French Buchla player. I first heard of him last year when he sent me some samples of his Buchla record.

3. Alessandro Cortini – “Gira”
I also know Alessandro through his Buchla playing and I love his understated style.

4. Chris Ianuzzi – “Will”
Chris used to work at my studio in New York many years ago and has continued his passion for synthesis. In the old days, he played a Voyetra, and now he uses Make Noise Eurorack modules.

5. Floating Points – “Argente”
I learned about Floating Points/Sam Shepherd when I was contacted by his agent about touring with him. He is an English synthesist and neuroscientist.

6. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith – “Marble”
I met Kaitlyn in Bolinas. She is a young up-and-coming synthesist.

7. Demdike Stare – “We Have Already Died”
I toured once with Sean Canty and Andy Votel as Neotantrik. I love the way Sean uses LPs as sound sources.

8. Kitaro – “Shadow of the Moon”
Kitaro is a dear friend that I’ve known for over thirty years. He incorporates his Japanese culture into his electronic music.

9. Neuronium – “Ethereal Journey (excerpt of live recording)”
Michel Huygen is also a personal friend. He is from Barcelona and is quite prolific, having released over 40 albums. This is an excerpt from a live concert in Poland.

10. Suzanne Ciani and Vangelis – “Lay Down Beside Me”
Vangelis played on a few of the pieces of my second album, The Velocity of Love. Here he performs on the Yamaha CS-80 ribbon controller and percussion. He was a master at the ribbon controller.
Synth of the Month:
Buchla Thunder

Buchla Thunder is one of many in the family of MIDI controllers consisting of tactile control surfaces, which are manipulated by hand.

Developed by electronic instrument designer Don Buchla in 1989, Thunder is a musical instrument controller with an array touch sensitive keys. Keys 1 to 9 respond to pressure and keys 10 to 25, with the feather graphic respond to both pressure AND location. Thunder's software — known as “STORM” — allows assignment of any key's touch, pressure and/or location to any MIDI controller number or note number on any MIDI channel. Keys can also be assigned to start and stop “Riffs" that might be programmed as part of the preset.