Suzanne Ciani On The Moog Modular System 55

In this video, electronic music and sound design pioneer Suzanne Ciani explores the System 55, one of the Moog Modular Synthesizer reissues announced for the 2015 NAMM Show.

Ciani came to the Moog factory in Asheville, NC to play the first System 55 newly handcrafted by Moog in over thirty years.

Technical Details:

The patch, created and performed live, was shot in one take and features a sequence designed on the 960 Sequential Controller that’s driving three 921B oscillators into a 904B High Pass filter whose cutoff is being modulated by a 921 oscillator. A second set of 921B oscillators is also being played manually into a 904A Low Pass filter whose cutoff knob is also being modulated by the 921 oscillator.

The resulting sound of each is then sent through its own dedicated MF-104M analog delay for ambience. The audio has been captured directly with no eq, compression, or editing applied.

More information on the reissued systems is available at the Moog site. You can find out more about Ciani at her site.

27 thoughts on “Suzanne Ciani On The Moog Modular System 55

    1. That “comical” company has managed to stay afloat and actually increase both its profits and workforce by making products in the USA. Not too many niche companies can make that claim. If you don’t like their products that’s fine. Take you dollars elsewhere. There are plenty of us who love what they do.

  1. Fantastic – Ciani knows how to create such beautiful music – and she ‘actually plays’ the keyboard, rather than just hitting ‘start’ on the sequencer. This really shows the Moog at its best.

    Now, if only Moog would begin releasing the individual modules at a reasonable cost so that us mere mortals could spread the cost of building up a System 55 over time, rather than selling the house and car, going bankrupt, or committing crime to buy one at the current price, that would make this a very appealing option. Start even with a basic cabinet and power supply, and then add modules until the system is complete. Even if the modules were around $200 – $500 each, that would make it possible for most people to own a System 55 by building it up over a period of months. Artists may take longer to paint a picture, but at the end of the process they have something truly creative that has a lasting legacy and appeal – the Moog Modulars should be seen in the same way.

    Surely Moog understand the basic business aspects here? More customers is good because that generates more profit. Therefore, don’t price your products beyond the reach of more customers. Its not that difficult to understand!!!

    1. Believe me it won’t ever happen.
      If Bob was alive, this would never have been reissued, not at this ridiculously high price anyway. Maybe he would have gone the obvious way: eurorack.
      Susanne Cianni is great, but don’t you think the same would be obtainable as well in a eurorack modular?
      I have the answer: yes it can.
      I have a Dopfer modular with 3 VCOs, a Wave multiplier II and a audio divider (super suboscilator). As for filter I have 2 Moogerfooger Lowpass filters running in parallel. So I have the Moog sound for a fraction of the price and believe me it can be dangerously fat!!

    1. Yes! I was doing almost the exact same stuff last night on my Analog Keys. Although, I was doing more because it’s 4-voices, with a better sequencer, and at a fraction of the cost.

      Elektron > Moog any old day.

  2. I love that Moog care about their own history enough to achieve something like this. It just takes someone as good as Suzanne Ciani to do it justice.

  3. I already have the new System 55, System 35, and System 15 in my imaginary keyboard rig. All three systems have patch memory and are fully polyphonic.

  4. You all might hate this comment, and this is not a criticism of Moog, so here me out….

    I realize that Moog makes a lot of great products, and a huge piece like this with a tremendous price tag is not designed to penetrate the market the way a $300 Microbrute does, but there’s a trend at this year’s NAMM — manufacturers are drunk on the analogue resurgence. In general I think it’s great that we’ve got the various Phatties and Dave Smiths, and I love the smaller Arturias and Bass Stations and Volcas. But now that analogue has exploded again (thank God) manufacturers are making remakes of old tech (Korg ARP 2600, this, ect.) – totally analogue, no presets, if you didn’t know better you’d never know it was the 21st century. There’s a place for this, of course, and if I had the cash I’d buy some of it, but I’m worried that the trend is going too far and has hit too many manufacturers at the same time. I have not seen the equivalent of the “Bass Station III” this year, for instance, so the actual market demands may have to rely on previous years’ releases to fill their needs.

    As a guy who plays very complicated synth setups live on small stages, and without Trent Reznor’s road crew, I need the ability to save patches. I also need to buy cost-effective tools that are easy to integrate with other synths in a live environment. So I hope manufacturers remember that it’s still hard work to use real synths live instead of just presets, and most people can’t afford that big, cool, super expensive synth that’s hard to use in those environments.

  5. I just read that “Due to the expansive…” etc. message at the beginning of the video. I guess I skipped it the first time. Whether it’s true or not, it’s a pretty damned arrogant thing to say. “Our synthesizer is probably too good for the equipment you have at hand, but we’ll give you a few seconds to trade up so you can bask in the glory of it. While you may not be worthy of it, we will consider taking your money.” I know deep down they are not like that, but it’s statements like that that can rankle people. ANY synthesizer sounds better if you use studio monitors or really good headphones over dinky computer speakers. That’s just bloody common sense. It’s also common sense not to look like an arrogant ponce on purpose by accident. It’s like telling people not to drive with their eyes closed. Duh.

  6. Wonderful piece of music!

    As for the Moog part… this “analog resurgence” is a typical human psychological occurrence. When a technology or thing is about to pass out of existence, you get a resurgence of interest in it for a short time. A “resonant peak” if you will.

    It’s like when everyone bought muscle cars in the late 90s. It was clear these were about to become extinct because they were all falling apart, nobody was making them anymore, gas prices were rising fast, and they didn’t have modern things like GPS, comfortable seats, safe braking distances, etc. So for a short time there was a feeding frenzy where the people with more disposable income bought them up. They had no real use or purpose in the world at the time, other than bragging rights and nostalgia. It was all about having a rare thing, which they never had when it was “the thing”, or had and lost. And then suddenly, it was over. All that was left was a bunch of show room style antique cars sitting in garages and warehouses where nobody but the owner and his dinner party guests will ever see them, and a couple of re-issue “modern” models like the dodge charger. The modern versions don’t sell all that well compared to other options on the market, because they no longer represent anything other than a niche interest, or a trailing edge of a fading era.

    Look anywhere in human history and you see this effect. Oldies stations that make a big deal out of the music that is about to disappear from public consciousness. Sudden love for an old building that nobody would shop at because it was nasty, but now everyone loves because it’s about to be torn down. Stores that sell vinyl and cassette albums. And on and on.

    Moog may be savvy enough to understand this wave, and are riding it with the most profitable and showy products available. The limited release numbers of these products would indicate that they are aware that they will never sell many of them. The risk for them is in isolating potential future customers for when the bubble does pop (which it already has I believe. Surely we are at “peak analog” already.) For those of us that love analog stuff it might seem absurd, but mark my words… in the near future it will be like a switch was thrown and all this analog frenzy will just die. Market saturation will ensure that we can all buy up a couple affordable gizmos to cover the analog bases, and then we can all move on to the new and more functional stuff that will rush in to fill the gap. Only the strongest pure analog stuff will survive, and it will become niche. I would predict Moog makes the leap, as will eurorack modular. Korg will keep the branding up, but roll the guts of the machines to more modern insides, much like Roland is attempting to do.

    1. Analog gear never went away.

      Many bands and styles of music snapped up analog gear when it was cheap and defined entire new styles of music with it.

      Many companies produced analog throughout the late 80s, 90s, and 00s. Doepfer modualr started in the mid 90s so even the Eurorack thing isn’t new.

      It is experiencing a resurgence of new models and remakes with extra features, but it isn’t just a nostalgic collectors market. In fact, the interest in new analog gear is likely a response to the silly prices that the actual vintage market has reached. People want analog gear at affordable prices.

      As far as an analog peak, I think people across many fields have discovered that digital everything wasn’t the answer to their problems. It can be convenient but can also feature tradeoffs that are not apparent at first.

      Analog synths are just one aspect of dipping into older tech.

      Records have made a comeback.

      Metal albums are being released on cassette tape again due to the bandwidth limitations of the format being a desirable characteristic for the sound.

      8mm film is popular with hobbyists again. As is 16mm.

      And it is mostly driven by younger people rediscovering the older tech, not just by old people buying what they never had.

  7. I am still a little confused who these synths are aimed at. Everyone seems to think that the three systems are aimed at only at the millionaires club of rich rock and movie stars, which I am sure they are. But if you had as much cash as say Tom Cruise, wouldn’t you be able to source an original System 55 (with its associated cachet), and be able to afford a tech to keep it in tiptop working order? I wonder if its like this in the vintage guitar market where I know instruments like the Fender Strat go for squillions?

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