Early on in “Pure Buddha Data,” a recent piece of music by Stephen Stamper, a four-note riff comes briefly into sonic view. The fourth of the notes is so subdued that it might not even exist. That final note trails off into the lush ringing field that is the majority of the work, a thick lawn amid which the riff occasionally blooms. The brief melody is not dissimilar to the theme from the Steven Spielberg film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, those Morse-like tones with which aliens and humans find a common if rudimentary language by employing math transformed into music. In the movie, the music is harmonically sound, which lends the meeting the air of good will.
The notes in Stamper’s piece will be familiar to anyone who has turned on the first of the Buddha Machines. It is a rare melodic moment from the device, designed by the duo FM3 to emit swaying drones and drone-like effluence until its batteries run out. In the brief note appended to the track, Stamper mentions that the sounds we’re hearing are “A first generation FM3 Buddha Machine left to run through my Pure Data performance patch.” (Pure Data is the name of a graphic programming environment.) That patch appears to be the same software process that he employed in the production of a recent contribution he made to the Disquiet Junto project, when the collective remixed a track off the recent Marcus Fischer album, Collected Dust:
Listening to both tracks is to let the mind slowly reverse engineer what it is, exactly — well, more to the point, inexactly — Stamper’s patch is doing. It isn’t a destructo approach. It’s more of a thickening and quickening agent. It speeds up the material in a manner that it loops back on itself, accruing layers into a sonorous denseness that, somehow, doesn’t fully lose the gentle qualities of the original source material.