My 33 1/3 book, on Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Volume II, was the 5th bestselling book in the series in 2014. It's available at Amazon (including Kindle) and via your local bookstore. • F.A.Q.Key Tags: #saw2for33third, #sound-art, #classical, #juntoElsewhere: Twitter, SoundCloud, Instagram

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

tag: Buddha Machine

Buddha Machine Variations No. 32 (Microloop Trial)

A series of focused experiments

This is a Saturday evening trial run at selecting tiny bits of a single loop from a Buddha Machine and having them pulse against each other. Eventually the main source line is eliminated so that only these microloops remain. Toward the end, two of the microloops are further affected by delays that warble by changing ever so slightly within a narrow range at a rapid pace. There’s not much more to it than that. The source audio is the third generation of Buddha Machine, called Chan Fang, which came out a decade ago, back in 2010. The instrument heard is the qin, a Chinese zither.

There are five channels into the mixer. The purple one, channel five, is the unadulterated source audio. Channels one through four each get their own individual micoloop in real time, one at a time. Channels three and four are the ones eventually set to warble (channel four starting at 3:24, channel three at 4:52). The loops and delays occur in the ER-301 (the large synthesizer module in the lower left, running the Pedal Looper and Delay units). The warble is a result of a pair of waves that come from a combination of the Batumi (the one with four vertical levers directly above the ER-301) and the S.P.O. (the one with four black knobs, two to the right of the Batumi). I’m going to explore this approach further, likely combining microloops from various loops of the Chan Fang.

For further patch-documentation purposes, here is a straight-on shot of the synthesizer:

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

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Buddha Machine Variations No. 31 (Narrowed Divide)

A series of focused experiments

One thing that occurred to me as I’ve reached the end of a full month of daily Buddha Machine Variations is that I am accessing a familiarity with the source recordings that has only one direct comparison for me, which is the year I spent daily listening to and writing about one of my favorite albums of all time, Selected Ambient Works Volume II by Aphex Twin. As I searched for a Buddha Machine loop for today’s exercise, I realized that as I clicked through the options, I knew what would be next: Not only were the individual loops familiar as a friend’s voice on the phone, so too were the loops’ relative proximity to each other. And as I listened to the audio as it was being processed, I adjusted the various options in accordance with the specific loop’s qualities. And when I thought back on how this patch came together, I realized the decisions about what kind of processing to engage in were rooted in the source material. That point is distinct from where I began 31 days ago, when the audio was more of a discreet object, and the processing a discreet application. The divide between them has narrowed.

In any case, this piece has four subsidiary parts. I’ll describe them in brief, one channel of the mixer at a time, from left to right. Channel one is the straight audio out of the Buddha Machine, but with a slight variation on the delay, lending it a warble quality (delay via the ER-301). Channel two is the same unadulterated audio, its volume increasing and decreasing thanks to a slow, shallow wave (courtesy of the o_C module, running the Hemisphere firmware). Channel three is a narrow band of the FXDf-derived audio (from the source loop), put through a slight, static delay (in the ER-301). And channel four is another narrow band of the FXDf-derived audio, set on a little loop that is constantly overwriting itself. The loop is a little over two seconds long, and the trigger for the recording is going at a different pace, so over time the audio that is heard in this loop changes. (The loop kicks in at 1:05, when I connect a cable from the Batumi to the ER-301.) Beyond that, it’s all just me manipulating the various channels, based on my understanding and appreciation of the source loop, its melodic qualities, and the stages that comprise its structure.

There was no entry yesterday because after I recorded it last night I realized there was an issue with the audio, so I waited until today to re-record it. In the process I changed the patch, adding some elements.

For further patch-documentation purposes, here are two shots of the synthesizer:

And the settings on the Ornament and Crime module, the screen of which had gone dark while the video was being shot:

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

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Buddha Machine PSA

Minimalism, but not that minimalist

In the process of working on Buddha Machine Variations the past few weeks, I’ve been re-informing myself about these wonderful devices created by FM3. Much of this education is the algorithmic equivalent of second-hand smoke. If you post a lot of YouTube videos of Buddha Machines, then YouTube recommends videos of Buddha Machines. One consistent subject of comments pops up: complaints about the controller for the Philip Glass edition, which was produced to coincide with the composer’s 80th birthday. Among the complaints: that the device’s volume can’t be changed. This isn’t true. The instructions on how to raise and lower the volume are printed on the inside of the paper case that holds the device. This is my first, and likely last, public service announcement where the Buddha Machines are concerned.

Oh, and there’s no Buddha Machine Variations video today, because I had some sort of technical error when recording. The patch is still in place, so I’ll revisit it when I get a break tomorrow and post it to

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Loop Bingo

I've had some nice lunch breaks and after-dinner wind downs this month.

Full playlist at

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Buddha Machine Variations No. 30 (Organ Specter)

A series of focused experiments

One Buddha Machine, the Philip Glass edition, playing the organ loop, three processed channels of which go into the mixer. When the piece begins, it’s just the signal going through the granular synthesizer (channel two). Then comes the main line (channel one), which is the output of the Muxlicer. There are eight randomly selected outputs from the Muxlicer: six bands of the filter bank, and two of the granular synth, all set at different volume levels. They’re being selected at random, and the clock that sets the pace of the Muxlicer changes regularly. The basic pulse is a square wave from the Dixie II. There’s a hybrid wave from the Batumi, via the SPO, that occasionally makes the Dixie II pick up the pace, as a result of two different combined waves. The third channel of the mixer is a copy of the audio in the second channel, that of the granular synth processing the inbound signal, except it’s going through the ER-301 and being delayed. The intention was to overlap the granular phrase so that there are fewer gaps in the sound. In addition, the value of the delay on the third channel of the mixer is rapidly shifting tiny increments, so its relative position to the second channel is always changing. That about covers it.

For further patch-documentation purposes, here’s a straight-on shot of the synthesizer:

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

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