(1946-) Pioneering electronic musician in the areas of New Age, session work and experimental music. Born in Indiana, she attended Wellsley College in Massachusetts in the mid-1960s. While there, she took some engineering classes at th Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she received her first exposure to synthesizers and electronic music. After graduating, she went to the University of California-Berkeley, where she became acquainted with Donald Buchla, who encouraged her to try out one of his modular synths. After graduating in 1970, she moved to San Francisco, and took a job working for Buchla and Associates as a circuit board assembler, while doing some work in art installations and at the San Francisco Tape Music Center. Eventually she saved up enough money to buy her own Buchla 200 system.
In 1974, she moved to New York and took up doing both session work and live performances, in which she established her preference for performing with quadraphonic sound systems. She soon became popular with Madison Avenue advertising agencies, which employed her to do "sound trademarks" and sound effects for ads. She did several well-known ad sound effects with her Buchla modular, including a well-known bottle-pop-and-beverage-pour sound for Coca-Cola. She describes herself as having been "homeless" during this period, as most of her income was going back into purchasing equipment; at one point, she was living in the basement of modern-classical composter Philip Glass. By 1976, she was starting to pick up session work for music (and making enough money for better accommodations), and some gigs for film soundtracks. An unusual commission came from Bally Manufacturing, who sought out Ciani to do the soundtrack for their "Xenon" pinball machine. The machine's hardware included some limited sample playback capability, and Ciani included her own vocoded voice in the sound effects.
In 1982, Cinai released her first widely-available album, Seven Waves. (She had recorded an album in 1970, of which only 50 copies were printed.) Working primarily in the New Age genre which was enjoying a surge of popularity at the time, this brought her widespread recognition. This album was also the beginning of her moving away from the Buchla modular, as she began adding polyphonic synths to her setup. Subsequent albums The Velocity of Love and Hotel Luna moved more in this direction, adding piano to the polyphonic synths, and gradually the Buchla was set aside. In 1990, she released a piano-only album, Pianissimo, which became her best-selling album to date, and this encouraged her to move more in that direction throughout the 1990s. A 1992 bout with breast cancer slowed her down and compelled her to relocate to California, but she still found time for soundtrack and theater work. She released two more piano albums, and 2005's Silver Ships, but her recorded output became less.
In 2015, in the process of releasing some archive material, she released Buchla Concerts 1975, made up of two New York performances. She was surprised when the album sold well and launched a revival of interest in her early career. By this time her Buchla 200 was only partly functional; she inquired with Donald Buchla about repairing it, but he convinced her to purchase a new 200e system instead. She began doing performances with this, again in quadraphonic sound. In 2018, she released Live Quadraphonic, a set of Buchla performances released on vinyl encoded with the "SQ" four-channel method; the album package included a decoding device. It was the first quadraphonic released by any record label in over 30 years. Only 227 copies were printed, and they were priced at $227 each, a number taken from the Buchla 227e quadrophonic output module.