Electronic music pioneer Suzanne Ciani plays quadraphonic concert

BRATTLEBORO — Suzanne Ciani, one of the first innovators in the composition of electronic music, will appear in Brattleboro on Thursday, March 9, to play a live quadraphonic concert at Epsilon Spires.

This will be Ciani's first performance in New England in five years, and her only scheduled appearance in the eastern half of the United States until a 10-day residency this fall at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

Jamie Mohr, executive director of Epsilon Spires, says in a news release this will be an “unforgettable, potentially once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” She continues, “her style of quadraphonic performance will create an extraordinary sonic experience in the sanctuary of the historic cathedral.”

Ciani studied classical piano before encountering some of the earliest electronic synthesizers while earning her master's degree in composition at University of California, Berkeley. She began making new work with the Buchla 200, a modular synthesizer created by the eccentric visionary Don Buchla.

In an era when electronic music in itself was exotic, a woman operating the bulky and complex instruments of the time was practically unheard of. When Ciani met with record executives to try to score a recording contract, she was repeatedly rejected for not performing with vocals and a backing band.

Ciani's work, described in the news release as “playful, rhythmic, minimalist compositions,” eventually found a home in advertising and movie soundtracks, where in 1981 she became the first woman to score a Hollywood film solo.

She created Coca-Cola's iconic pop-and-pour sound effect and designed the sounds for the pinball game Xenon before returning to her roots as a piano player, recording several new age albums that have earned her five Grammy nominations.

In 2016, at Buchla's urging, Ciani purchased a new version of the synthesizer and has been recording and performing amid a resurgence of interest in early synth technology and her contributions to the emerging form in the 1970s.

Buchla synthesizers distinguished themselves from competitors by never incorporating a traditional keyboard, and by distributing its sounds through a quadraphonic system instead of the conventional mono or stereo systems.

Ciani's performance at Epsilon Spires will be in this quadraphonic mode, which she describes in a 2019 interview in Women in Sound as being “about generating illusionary spaces in the moment and giving life to the electronic sound.”

Opening for Ciani will be Jesse Beaman, an experimental musician and composer from Austin, Texas, whose work explores classical piano, ambient electronics and percussion. Tickets for the event are $25 and can be purchased at

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