Suzanne Ciani: music of Atari, pinball, and Star Wars Disco

 Wp-Content Uploads 2012 02 Suzanne-Ciani-Lixiviation

If you've ever heard Meco's classic space disco version of the Star Wars theme, or played the Xenon pinball machine, or saw the original Atari TV commercials, then you've heard the pioneering electronic music of Suzanne Ciani. From her earliest days studying with Don Buchla at UC Berkeley and Max Mathews at Stanford to her commercial work in the 1970s and 1980s to Grammy-nominated New Age music in the 1990s, Ciani has been a prolific composer and electronic music innovator. Here is a 1979 interview with her about creating the sounds for Bally's Xenon pinball machine:

The excellent Finders Keepers Records has just issued Suzanne Ciani: Lixiviation, a fantastic collection of her early recordings -- TV spots, corporate IDs, advertising jingles, and other short bits of brilliance. Check out her music for an Atari Liberator television commercial:

From Finders Keepers:

A classically trained musician with an MA in music composition this American Italian pianist was first introduced to the synthesizer via her connections in the art world when abstract Sculptor and collaborator Harold Paris introduced Suzanne to synthesizer designer Don Buchla who created the instrument that would come to define Ciani's synthetic sound (The Buchla Synthesiser). Cutting her teeth providing self-initiated electronic music projects for art galleries, experimental film directors, pop record producers and proto-video nasties Suzanne soon located to New York where she quickly became the first point of call for electronic music services in both the underground experimental fields and the commercial advertising worlds alike. Counting names like Vangelis and Harald Bode amongst her close friends Suzanne and her Ciani Musica company became the testing ground for virtually any type of new developments in electronic and computerized music amassing an expansive vault of commercially unexposed electronic experiments which have remained untouched for over 30 years… until now.
Suzanne Ciani: Lixiviation (Amazon)

"Synth pioneer Suzanne Ciani talks Atari, Steve Jobs' Next" (LA Times)


  1. And we have a winner for “Best Thirty Seconds of Opening Video Unrelated to the Rest of the Clip”.

    Really. Go listen to the host’s first sentence again.

    – yeff

    1. I have all of her albums and love them all!  She is good to listen to when you need to relax after a busy day.

  2. Geez, I had forgotten how charming she really is and how fun Xenon was to play, thanks to the sounds.  Thank you for the reminder.

  3. It was a great interview and cool to hear the behind the scenes info.  However, I think she was being slightly disingenuous when she described the basis of Xenon’s sound effects.  She’s claiming the metallic “oh” sounds were those “oh” sounds you make when you lose the pinball? Really. Look, Xenon is a classic and as soon as I saw it I knew it was a classic.  But as soon as I heard it, I knew those “oh” sounds were the sounds you hear late at night.

    My conspiracy-minded id suggests this might’ve been one front of the marketer’s PR campaign to sell his orgasmic pinball machine: “See? It can’t be exploitation; a woman created the thing. It’s not exertion you’re hearing; it’s frustration.”  Plausible?

  4. I thought from the picture that this article was about CAN.  But then I heard some new really cool music.  

    Cool post. Thanks.

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