Saturday, January 2, 2010

Omni Ciani

Omni magazine was a science/futurism publication founded by Bob Guccione Jr. that ran from the late seventies to the mid-nineties. It ushered in a new era of popular science journalism, being something like the Wired magazine of its time, but with more of a speculative bent. Omni regularly featured pieces from science-fiction luminaries including Arthur C. Clarke and William Gibson, who coined the term cyberspace in Omni's pages. The speculative side also meant a predilection for new age-y and UFO-related pseudo-science. In the mid-nineties Omni was the first print publication to go entirely online. You can read an article in Slate magazine here about the history of Omni, and as well visit the online tribute site.

Here is a clip from Omni's short-lived TV incarnation, featuring the analog synth wizardress / nerd pin-up Suzanne Ciani as she composes music for a pinball game. Not only is it remarkably hypnotic to watch her program computers and synthesizers, I also love the smug goofball TV show host at the beginning, lounging by a space lamp and saying "isn't it amazing that electricity of this kind will one day be used to regrow human limbs?" in a ridiculously smug voice, summing up the sort of self-oblivious giddiness of 70s futurism.

Ciani, a student of synthesizer pioneer Don Buchla, has enjoyed a successful career as a musician and commercial composer for several decades, having composed the sound effects for the MECO disco Stars Wars record, releasing her classic Seven Waves album, and scoring numerous commercials. These included a coke commercial in which she used synthesizers to generate the satisfying PSSSHT sound of a soda can being opened.

WAV files of Ciani's designs for the Xenon pinball game shown in the Omni clip are posted on her website.

Here is Suzanne in another clip, this time from the children's tv show 3-2-1 Contact, explaining the properties of electronic sound.

1 comment:

el jeffe said...

fantastic post!
love Suzanne Ciani (definately a nerd pinup :))
.. but i really love OMNI!
i still have quite a few issues from the late '70s..
it would be so good if new scientist rolled out editorial like this..
they could give Ray Kurzweil his own health & fitness column :)