Friday, January 27, 2006

Review: The Buddha Machine


So, what the heck is this "Buddha Machine" thing, you ask? Where do I begin? In today's musical landscape, experimental composers have continued to explore the question "What is music?" Computer programs can be utillized to "create" sounds upon command. Musicians that delve into the little known area of music known as ambient noise, such as Brian Eno, have created albums full of free flowing sounds and loops of noise that seem to last forever. However, the compact disc only has a limited amount of space on which to record music, so it was impossible to create a truely unending musical experience. Pioneering Chineese duo FM3's answer to this dillema is "The Buddha Machine." I wish I could describe to you just how cool this little sound box is.

The Buddha Machine is, in the simplest sense, a piece of avant sound art. FM3 has loaded this tiny soundbox with 9 loops of ambient noise, ranging from 2 to 45 seconds long. The beauty is, each one of these loops beautfully fades in and out, and could theoretically continue forever. The box does have an AC adapter port, so you really aren't even limited by battery capacity. I have been playing with The Buddha Machine since I got it three days ago, and I am obsessed with it. It's sounds are interesting but unobtrusive, and have a tangible quality that seems to fill the room. Even the cheap speaker adds a certain ambience which is lost if you decide to use the headphone jack. Yes, it is a cheap speaker, but the sounds it produces are lush and vibrant. All of my friends don't quite understand why I think this little box is so cool, and I can readily admit that the idea of the Buddha Machine is lost on most people. I, for one, am fascinated by anything that stretches conventional ideas of what music is supposed to or can be.

I'm not exactly sure how the machine is able to produce these beautful loops when it is such a small, inexpensive item. I found this picture on FM3's website that answered my question. A small Bodhisattva is captured and placed at the core of each Buddha Machine. A Bodhisattva is of course any soul of a Buddhist who reaches enlightenment. Each of these individuals become like the Buddha, and when captured apparently create some of the most beautiful sounds these ears have ever heard. Now, I know some of you may think that trapping a soul in a machine for our enjoyment is unethical, but you must realize that the world you live in does not actually exsist, and so therefore neither does the Buddha Machine. See, problem averted!

I don't know what else to say about this remarkable piece of sound art other than you should drop the 23 dollars and purchase one, if for nothing else the fact that it is quite the conversation piece. They can be ordered through www.forcedexposure.com. I know I have already gotten much use out of mine, and it doesn't seem to be getting old.

2 Comments:

Blogger donald said...

I've had a buddha machine for three days now and it's completely mesmerising. I notice how my attention to the sound drifts and changes, how the same loop can be soothing, incidental, or annoying, depending on the shifting qualities of mind. My girlfriend said 'I couldn't listen to that all day' but for me it's more like a generator of physical vibrations (which can help throw into relief those rhythms of mind states) than an entertainment experience.

5:23 AM  
Blogger Harry said...

Hello,

I have recently opened a website specifically related to the FM3 buddha machine, reviews, articles, links etc. I also stock the units themselves.

Please feel free to visit
www.buddha-machine.com

Thanks
Harry

10:03 PM  

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