fm3: Buddha Machine

The Buddha Machine belongs in either the 'brilliantly simple' or 'simply brilliant' category: a small, plastic soundbox (available in five different colors) that's automatically activated the moment its two AA (Chinese) batteries are inserted (there's no on/off switch). The nine 'endless loops' created by fm3 (Christiaan Virant and Zhang Jian) could play for hundreds of hours (or at least until the batteries expire; alternately there's a plug for DC power) and can be listened to on headphones or through the device's tiny speaker. The only mechanism available to the user is a toggle switch which initiates a different loop without interruption. Though fm3 gave the loops titles (“Ma,” “Zheng,” “Sheng,” et cetera), there's no way to match a given title to its particular loop.

And what of the music itself? Aside from a rough-edged production quality that coats each loop with fuzzy blur, most merge a meditative, Chinese character with a free-flowing electronic ambiance. Yet, regardless of their individuating qualities, the loops are exactly that: brief sections that could repeat interminably, if a listener were so inclined to let them do so. In truth, though fm3's music is captivating, the music itself is, if not incidental, certainly secondary to the project's conceptual underpinning; that the Buddha Machine engenders a re-appraisal of one's conventional listening practice is ultimately its most salient feature. (Note: fm3's release is the first in a Staalplat series with other artists' boxes scheduled for future release.)

December 2005