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

Buddha Machine Variations No. 14 (Battery Fidelity)

A series of focused experiments

Three strands of sound from the first-generation Buddha Machine. The first is the straight audio, its volume raised and lowered ever so slightly. The second is a combined couple of bands of that audio, after it’s sent through a granular synthesizer, and then the contour of that utterance shaped to follow the shadow, or envelope, of the original audio. The third is one more narrow band of the granular-synthesis-derived sound, put through a digital version of tape delay, the speed of the instant replay changing slightly as it rolls.

The audio enters the system through an Erica Synths Pico Input, the gain control of which is quite useful. The initial splitting of the signal occurs via the Performance Buffered Mult by Malekko Heavy Industry. I recommend the Performance Buffered Mult because of that little plastic button at the bottom: It allows you, at any point, to switch back and forth between one or two source audio elements (not that I use it for that purpose here). The mixing occurs in the ADDAC802 Quintet Mixing Console. I don’t know of anything better at this width. (If you do, let me know.) The granular synthesizer is the Antumbra Smog, a narrower remix of the Mutable Instruments Clouds (which is no longer manufactured). The splitting of the bands of the signal occurs in the Make Noise FXDf (also no longer manufactured). The tracking of the source audio’s envelope occurs in a Detect-Rx, from Steady State Fate. (I previously had a Doepfer A-119 for this purpose.) The various LFOs adjusting the volume of the first strand and the speed of the third strand are produced by the combination of a Xaoc Batumi and an S.P.O., the latter also from Steady State Fate. The simulated tape delay occurs in the Expert Sleepers Disting mk4 (that’s setting D2 in the menu). Oh, yeah, and one of the LFO outputs is moving around the position of the granular synth.

I’ve learned a heap from other people’s videos of their work, so I’m sharing these detailed notes in that spirit, and also for my own reference, because once you un-patch the cables it can be difficult to re-patch with any particular fidelity. The track’s title relates to how the sound of the resulting audio, largely due to the tape delay, resembles at times, in an idealized and utterly fictional manner, what a Buddha Machine sounds like when its batteries are dying.

Video originally posted at youtube.com/disquiet. There’s also a video playlist of the Buddha Machine Variations.

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  • 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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