January 08, 2009
The electronic musicians Christiaan Virant and Zhang Jian live in Beijing and work under the name FM3. In 2005, they released their Buddha Machine, a collection of nine audio loops ranging in length from five to forty seconds and housed in a small brightly colored plastic box fitted with a speaker, like a transistor radio from the last century. Until a new sound is selected, a loop repeats infinitely (or until the battery runs out). You can (and should) listen while you read, relax, exercise, or cook: my original blue Buddha Machine has kept me sane through many an evening of chopping and dicing. Virant and Zhang perform live with multiple Buddha Machines, sometimes battling. They have also designed custom housings, one made partly from tea leaves. The Buddha Machine 2.0 is out now for around twenty bucks, featuring nine new loops and a pitch control. You can also download both sets of loops from the FM3 Web site, buy a Buddha Machine app for your iPhone ($3.99), or go to a Web site called Zendesk that has arrayed twenty-one virtual Buddha Machines into a wall of sound.