A Life in Waves

A Life in Waves explores the life and innovations of composer and electronic music pioneer, Suzanne Ciani.


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  • ★★★★ review by Jason Coffman on Letterboxd

    Even if you don’t know the name Suzanne Ciani, you’ve almost certainly heard her work. Ciani worked with synthesizer pioneer Don Buchla at the start of her career, and in the ’70s and ’80s she brought the synthesizer into the spotlight by scoring countless iconic advertising campaigns. A Life in Waves follows Ciani in the present day as she looks back on her amazing career and finds herself surprised by a new generation of enthusiastic fans. Director Brett Whitcomb’s previous feature documentaries include The Rock-A-Fire Explosion and GLOW: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, and A Life in Waves sits comfortably alongside them as a thoughtful portrait of a fascinating subject. Like Tyler Hubby’s Tony Conrad: Completely in the Present last year, much of the pleasure of watching this film comes from simply spending time with Ciani and listening to her thoughtful musings on life, her art, and her career. If it feels a little too short, it’s probably mostly because she’s so fun to hang out with and listen to.

    Part of my coverage of the 2017 Boston Underground Film Festival for Daily Grindhouse.

  • ★★★½ review by DavidFortin on Letterboxd

    J'ai un faible pour les documentaires musicaux, plus particulièrement si on parle des pionniers de l'électronique, et si on parle d'une pionnière je tombe facilement amoureux (salut Delia), mais là ce fut une découverte totale puisque je ne connaissais pas du tout Suzanne Ciani. Intéressant parcours de cette femme indépendante à la personnalité forte qui a expérimenté des sons, autant pour sa musique que pour les commerciaux de Coca-Cola ou pour tous les sons de la machine pinball "Xenon". Maintenant je dois aller ramasser la réédition vinyl de ses expérimentations 1969-1985 sur Finders Keepers Records.

  • ★★★★ review by swollenrooms on Letterboxd

    Ciani is brilliant, the documentary is a bit labored. It's as if the documentary was born out of a template and Ciani was plugged in, rather than tailor-made for her story. It's worth watching if you love Ciani or 70s-80s synth stuff in general.

  • ★★★½ review by green thunder on Letterboxd

    A documentary about electronic sound and music pioneer Suzanne Ciani, who helped craft the futuristic sounds of 1980s advertising as well as the romanticism of new age music. It's a bit slight and the talking heads are a bit of a crutch, but it remains likable.

    And man, maybe this is just me, but Ciani has a very kind voice and I just wanna hear her talk about analog synths and how she uses each one to produce different emotions in her music.

    Milwaukee Film Festival 2017

  • ★★★★½ review by Rhomega on Letterboxd

    In looking for recommendations for New Age music through iTunes years ago, I discovered the album Pure Romance by Suzanne Ciani, and I loved it. I later bought Pianissimo III. Out of curiosity, I wanted to see if she had a Wikipedia page at all, and not only did she have one, but I discovered all this work she had previously done in advertisements and the use of synthesizers, and I subsequently bought The Seven Waves (which I also love). Now, she has her own documentary, brought up by Kickstarter.

    A Life in Waves is an examination on her life and career that I wanted to see. Where she went to college, getting into electronic music, showing her work on her Buchla synthesizer, samples of her advertisement work, and old interviews (such as her work on the Xenon pinball table). Of course, I'm also here for the music I fell in love with, and it does cover her musical career with The Seven Waves and her entrance into the New Age genre (side note, this movie also features interviews with Kitaro, whom I'm also familiar with). It does cover her own personal life outside of music, and I'm glad she made the move she had to.

    It's really a movie for the fans, but I do recommend her music, and if you do like it, or if you remember those late '70s, early '80s commercials, give this a watch.

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