Wednesday, January 18, 2006

FM3/The Buddha Machine/8.2

I don't own a Buddha Machine, nor have I played with one. But after reading the Pitchfork review, I'm a little disappointed. There are some angles to this device that are missed.

The loops on the machine are made by a pair of artists - FM3. So this isn't just a toy, but an actual - well for now, I'll say recording - created through their collaboration. However, they've chosen to release this work as an actual hardware device - not as software to be played back through the listener's device of choice. If you would like to hear the loops, you can actually find mp3's of them on FM3's website. If you can read Mandarin, you'll find navigating it easier.

What's intriguing about the Buddha Machine isn't just the music, but the fact that the artists are dictating the means of playback as well. Though it does have a portable headphone jack, so you could rig this up to your stereo at home, the speaker on it is mono. The other controls are minimal - a volume knob, an on/off switch and a button to advance to the next loop. I disagree with Chris's observation that this is a toy. When you listen to music today, it's most likely that you're using some device made in Asia constructed out of plastic to listen to that music. The Buddha Machine is likewise made in an Asian factory out of plastic and electronics. However, the construction and manufacture are a part of FM3's art as well as the audio. In a time when businesses and governments are talking about music as "intellectual property", the Buddha Machine challenges the idea that the playback mechanism and environment are separate from the audo content itself.

FWIW, this meme has already been discussed out amongst the technorati. Boingboing and Engadget posted on the Buddha machine last year. Even Popmatters had a review last year. If you want to know more about the artists, there's a good interview with them on (in fact, the machine made's top 10 albums list). While Chris's review is well written, I would have modded it down -1 Redundant on slashdot by now.

On a positive note, I do appreciate PFM providing the Forced Exposure link at the bottom. But honestly, if the EMusic and Insound links don't go anywhere, just remove 'em. That just drives the web programmer in me nuts. I'll stop harping on it now.