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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Buddha Machine is next best thing to teetotalling meditation

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At first glance the Buddha Machine 2.0 doesn't seem like's really all that cool, but first impressions can be misleading. To put it plainly, it's a small plastic box that plays ambient loops, tones and drones. You can adjust the pitch, and the sounds emanating from the box reel out into infinity, or until the two AA batteries inside have to be replaced. The New York Times says the Buddha Machine is "Beautifully Useless," but to dismiss it as such undermines the therapeutic brilliance of this little device.

There is an addictive quality about the simplicity with which the Buddha Machine operates.

The accompanying paper work recommends hooking it up to a mixer, adding beats and rhymes, or pairing it up with other Buddha boxes to layer drones and compose your own master work of minimalism. But that seems pretty labor intensive. This jam is perfect on its own as a calming agent; something to bring the blood pressure down while the rest of the office crumbles to pieces around you. It's like a hybrid iPod, music box, Buddhist Prayer and meditation aid and one of those Zen Gardens that were so popular a few years back.

But what sets this it apart is that you choose the pitch and general orientation of your loop, based on nine different settings. Plug in a pair of headphones and two hours will disappear in the blink of an eye.

A quick history lesson

The Beijing duo of Christiaan Virant and Zhang Jian (a.k.a. FM3) first revealed the Buddha Machine in 2005. Since then they have sold more than 50,000 of them world over.  Artists as varied as Daft Punk, Gorillaz, Sunn O))), Blixa Bargeld of Einsturzende Neubauten, Mike Patton and even Brian Eno sing praises about the Buddha Machine.

I've seen these things at Criminal in L5p for the last couple of years but never quite understood their purpose. What sets the 2.0 version apart from the orginal Buddha Machine is that it offers the nine different drone settings and variable pitch that bring melody in and out of the sound depeneding how far to the left or to the right you twist the knob.

It is an exercise in futility to drone on and on about this little box. But it's ability to bring your mind into focus or make a stressful situation not so hectic is unparalleled. It's the next best thing to teetotalling meditation!




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