A LIFE IN WAVES: The Acclaimed SXSW ’17 documentary
Hits VOD August 4, 2017!
Occasionally, a music lover will unearth an artist who’s been around for ages and wonders how they’ve somehow never heard of them before. Maybe you can feel its influence on music you love already. A Life In Waves represents one of these discoveries for me.
The incredible biography of musician, composer and sound designer Suzanne Ciani. A Life In Waves describes her early life as she becomes a promising pianist. We then follow her into academia where she befriends the legendary late synth inventor Don Buchla. Immediately imagining the potential for musical expression, Ciani immerses herself in the sounds and technicalities of early synthesizers. This leads her from a path towards classical music to the infinite possibilities of electronica.
As she progresses her artistic vision, Suzanne is frustrated at the lack of industry interest in female solo electronic acts in the 1970’s. Perhaps the most pivotal of the many surprising turns her story takes, she capitalises on an opportunity to become a highly successful sound designer, commissioned to work for some of the worlds most iconic brands.
Prosperity in the corporate sphere enables her to refocus on her personal musical quest. This enables her to gradually establish herself as a recording artist.
Although this is a standard format documentary, the simplicity gives the subject a chance to really shine. Suzanne herself comes across as very likeable calm and reflective; a bright creative force and a self-professed romantic whose music seems to reflect aspects of her personality honestly.
Gender issues are prevalent at the moment, so it’s all the more inspiring to see a portrait of a woman so talented and assertive. She became a true pioneer in a male dominated industry, at a time when it was even more difficult to do so.
Given her many achievements and a short run-time, some of the chapters of her prolific career are only glossed over. Her passionate love affair with the Buchla modular synths and ascendance in advertising are shown in more depth.
On the other hand, A Life In Waves never gets boring and it’s hardly a criticism to wish a film was longer.
It’s probably fair to say that this might be more interesting for some people than others. It’s well established, that live electronica might not be anything special to watch but it’s worth remembering all music is primarily an auditory experience. Any fans (especially) of classical, new-age, ambient, electronic, retro futurist and synth-wave music will find something to enjoy here.
Words By Richard Hall