Computer music legend Suzanne Ciani has (probably) been innovating with electronic instruments since before you were born. As she revealed over email to The FADER in the Q&A below, she once gave synth lessons to Phillip Glass. Her latest release is for experimental New York label RVNG Intl's FRKWYS series, which brings together artists of different generations to create collaborative albums. In this case, Ciani worked with Washington composer Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith to create Sunergy, a blissful, brain-stretching collection of compositions inspired by the Californian coast.
The pair's FADER Mix captures much the same vibe, blending a sprawling natural feel with otherworldly electronics from the likes of Vangelis and synth musician Morton Subotnik. Listen to Ciani and Smith's incredibly soothing mix below, and read on for more about their first impressions of each other and what they're reading right now.
Where are you right now? Please describe your surroundings.
CIANI: I’m in my studio in Bolinas looking out at the ocean and listening to the soft sound of ocean waves.
SMITH: I am in the hills of Glendale, California. It is going to be 97 degrees today. It is 7 a.m. and I am getting ready to soundproof my studio space and then go for an afternoon mountain hike and river plunge.
Tell us a bit about this mix. How did you both select your tracks?
CIANI: I picked tracks that I like by composers I know, some for many years, like John Chowning with whom I studied at Stanford in 1969; Vangelis, who played on my second album, The Velocity of Love; Philip Glass, whom I gave synth lessons to in 1974; Mort Subotnik, the seminal [modular synthesizer] Buchla musician; Alessandro Cortini, a fellow Italian whose work I love; and Jonathan Fitoussi, whom I have never met but whose Buchla music I greatly appreciate.
SMITH: I go down a rabbit hole of finding music every week. I am starting a show on NTS in September and have been organizing my music library recently. I chose these tracks because they all have sounds that are natural and electronic. They are played in a way that I don't wonder too much about them and just absorb their sonic beauty.
What's your earliest music memory?
CIANI: Dancing in the living room to an LP of "The Tennessee Waltz."
SMITH: My mom playing harmonium and singing to me.
How did the two of you first come to meet and what were your first impressions of each other?
CIANI: We met at a community dinner in the small town where we both lived. Kaitlyn was young, self-confident, and quite thin!
SMITH: We first met in Bolinas at a community dinner that my husband and I cooked for. My first impression was of a poised, positive, caring, and passionate person.
What did the process of collaborating on Sunergy teach you?
CIANI: It taught me that we could manifest a shared intention…that our individual energies could result in something truly synergistic.
What's the last book you read that had a big impact on you and why?
CIANI: Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own, a historic “manifesto” for creative women. She emphasizes that women need to be financially independent, i.e. afford a room of their own, to be able to work at their art successfully.
SMITH: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. I love the idea of holding an object or a thought and if it doesn't bring you joy — let it go.
Ralf & Florian, "Tongebirge"
Vangelis Katsoulis, "The Slipping Beauty"
Yasuaki Shimizu, "Seiko 3"
Futuro Antico, "Schirak"
Poitr Kurek, "Edena"
Roberto Cacciapalia, "Sei Note In Logica"
Alvin Curan, "Canti e Vedute del Giardino Magnetico"
Jonathan Fitoussi, "Parallelogram"
Vangelis, "Blade Runner Blues"
Alessandro Cortini, "Luna"
Morton Subotnick, "4 Butterflies: Butterfly 4"
John Chowning, "Sabelithe"
Philip Glass, "Victor’s Lament"