Influences: Suzanne Ciani’s New Age Melodies

Album cover of Suzanne Ciani's Pianissimo

I’ve decided to take a look at some of the tracks and music that helped shape my musical taste and style. This category of posts will be called Influences. First up, the melodic new age instrumentals of Suzanne Ciani, which can be summed up in this one track: “Mosaic.”

“Mosaic” is one of those paradigm-shifting tunes for me. Being exposed to it in my 1st year of college, back in the smog of 1989, changed my perception of what could be done on an electronic device. I remember Jappy X letting me listen to his mom’s album of Suzanne Ciani’s “Neverland” on cassette tape. I was bowled over by the entire album. I made a copy. I listened to it over and over again. i love it because it was melodic, it was instrumental– and most importantly, it was all created and performed by one person without the drama of having to contend with personalities and egos.

One track in particular stood out for me: “Mosaic.” First off, it was propelling itself along without an obvious beat for most of the track. And yet it was distinctly rhythmic because of the percussions.

Secondly, it was so well produced, and so very transporting. It took me to a whole different place in my mind– someplace enchanted and fascinating. I learned from this that music should be a journey or a story. Even when no words are used.

And thirdly, I was told by Jappy X that the guitar parts were MIDI. I thought: “An electronic device sounding as real as this? Was it possible? What equipment was she using? It just couldn’t be MIDI, could it? It’s probably a real guitar!” For many years it amused me to debate with Jappy about whether it was real or MIDI. Remember this was before the Internet. We had no way of googling for album details. Listening to it today, i can’t believe I didn’t hear the signs of obvious electronic sampling. Still, it opened up my ears to possibilities. And made me wonder what a sampler like that would cost.

“Mosaic,” and the rest of the Neverland album spurred me to experiment in creating multitrack songs by using a keyboard hooked up to a karaoke machine to produce track 1. Then recording a second layer by playing live instruments while track 1 was playing . I had some compositions that went a full 6 layers deep. And by then, track 1 was barely audible. Still, Ciani’s overall musical style was very similar to my own, and I loved creating music that took inspiration from her melodic, new age direction.

Listen to one of my more recent compositions “Magenta Breeze” which still echoes a lot of that Ciani influence.


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