One of the things that I find so inspiring about early electronic music is the number of women I come across who were real pioneers in the field. One of my recent discoveries is Suzanne Ciani, shown in this video explaining sound synthesis on an American kids TV show from the 1980s called 3-2-1 Contact. It’s a great clip that includes some really cool demonstrations like the comparison of the soundwave from the synthesizer and a guitar.
Ciani studied for her MA in Music Composition at the University of California, Berkeley in the late 1960s, and during this period met Don Buchla. She began to explore the possibilities of Buchla’s early synthesizers and soon became expert in playing these new instruments.
Who knows what the reasons are for the seemingly high number of women involved in the history early sound synthesis. Perhaps the newness of the field meant that there were less barriers (perceived or actual) to inclusion for women? Ciani herself suggests another reason. In a short article in February’s edition of The Wire magazine, she suggests women have a natural aptitude for this kind of music:
[With electronic music] if you make even a small movement, you change the entire piece. Perhaps this is better left to the lighter and more sensitive female touch.