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Listening to art. Playing with audio. Sounding out technology. Composing in code. Rewinding the soundscape.

Buddha Machine 2.0: New Loops, Pitch Blend, MP3

The audio file is only 47 seconds long, but it’s a tantalizing taste of the forthcoming second edition of the Buddha Machine, the suprise-hit sound-art gadget created by the China-based duo FM3 (aka Christiaan Virant and Zhang Jian). According to a brief posting this morning at fm3buddhamachine.com, the new Buddha Machine will come in three new colors (as reported earlier this year — disquiet.com) with nine new loops, and it will include pitch bending, which the post describes as “like a whammy bar for your buddha box.” The inclusion of pitch-blend, while not a “game changer” per se, gently nudges the object from gadget toward musical instrument.

The sample audio is a mix of reverberant backing drones and what resemble lightly strummed, digitally augmented guitar (MP3), like the salvo to some 21st-century flamenco. The 47-second length likely doesn’t mark this as an excerpt; it’s probably the actual length of the loop.

Below are exploded views of the first Buddha Machine (above) and version 2.0 (below). While the presence of the little Buddha figurine is fanciful, there is evidence of a practical physical change in the upgrade. Note that on version 2.0 there are now two little spinning wheels at the top of the machine. One is presumably a combo volume control and on/off switch, as was the case in the first Buddha Machine. The other is, I imagine, the newly announced pitch-blend tool. The new control is circled in blue.

This isn’t the first upgrade to the Buddha Machine. At some point following its initial release, it saw a slight reconfiguration of the button that switches between loops (as reported here back in February 2008 — disquiet.com). For more background on the Buddha Machine, here’s a link to the December 2005 Disquiet.com interview with FM3 member Virant: “Buddha in the Machine.”

PS: Later in the day — that is, early tomorrow, October 29, dateline China — the FM3 Buddha Machine site posted a second Buddha 2.0 entry, with a photo confirming that the second wheel is, in fact, the apparatus for pitch control. Sample audio was provided of a loop being warped (MP3), and a second of the nine new loops was made available unadulterated — as with the earlier loop, it sounds very much like a richly plucked string instrument (MP3).

The three new colors of Buddha Machine are burgundy, grey, and chocolate. The new packaging looks less “Pacific-rim tourism” than did the first iteration of the device, and more “refined home decoration.” Details at fm3buddhamachine.com.

PPS: On October 31, over at fm3buddhamachine.com, FM3 unveiled loops 3 (MP3), 4 (MP3), and 5 (MP3).

By Marc Weidenbaum

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  • about

  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website Disquiet.com in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media

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