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

Buddha Machine Variations No. 16 (Split Level)

A series of focused experiments

This after-dinner patch doesn’t fully count as office ambience, because it had to wait until late in the day, but it had been on my mind all day. Yesterday (for “Murky Trough”), I’d used the Cold Mac module, from Whimsical Raps, to compare a pair of inbound sounds and from them extract the lowest of either signal at any one time. Hence the “murky.” That was the AND route. There is also an OR route on the Cold Mac. After consulting an aftermarket manual, I came to understand that the OR route would also send its initial inbound signal to the AND route if there’s nothing else going into the first jack of the AND route. So, I sent two different narrow strands of the Buddha Machine’s spectrum (split by the Make Noise FXDf, after first going through the granular synthesis of the Antumbra Smog, a remix of the Mutable Instruments Clouds), one to AND and one to OR, and compared each to a third strand. The pair of end results go to two of the five inputs of the mixer. The second of them, the OR, is having its relative volume shifted by a slow-moving square wave from the Dixie II.

The third mixer input is the VCA-out of the Cold Mac: more muted, less volatile. The fourth input is one single band of the FDXf-filtered spectrum. And the fifth input is the right channel of the granular synthesizer, sent first to the ER-301, to be delayed a bit. Lends an orchestral call-and-response feel.

At the risk of burying the lede, the main evident sonic component here is how the music shifts up and down, over and over, between two registers. That’s accomplished by a slow square wave sent from the Batumi to the pitch control of the granular synthesizer via the S.P.O. If the S.P.O. weren’t used to squash the highs and lows of the square wave, the shift would be inelegant. Here it is more controlled.

Oh, and one more thing: the “size” of the granular-synthesis grain is shifting back and forth due to an inbound wave from the Batumi.

I’m not sure what’s up with the clicking. It’s not been this pronounced previously, and seems to have something to do with the LFOs from the Batumi and the Dixie II. I’ll look into that. The sound does lend it a kind of classical-on-old-vinyl-LP vibe.

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

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  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website 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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