In the midst of the US election, I missed an important announcement: the smash hit Buddha Machine, a mysterious little $25 gadget that generates its own ambient music, has a sequel. You might think of Buddha Machine 2 as Buddha Machine Pro. New features:

  • A bigger sonic palette, with nine loops
  • Pitch bend (which the creators describe as being “like a whammy bar for your buddha box”)
  • Three colors (well, it is a consumer product of sorts!)

Expanding the sonic capabilities will be a welcome change. The packaging is wonderful, with a symbolically-appropriate lotus flower and a round hole that lets the speaker poke through. The only thing that makes me not immediately excited about the Buddha Box is that I’m really fond of open platforms, and this seems like a closed box – albeit a really beautiful one. While the RjDj project looks promising, the vision of a box that streams endless generative musical ideas to you, even on the new Mac-like iPods and iPhones, still hasn’t yet been realized. Of course, I do love the idea of a musical object that is meditative.

I haven’t gotten my hands on Son of Buddha Machine just yet, but here’s some good reading below. And at $25, it’ll be hard to resist picking one up. Check your hip indie record store or head to Cargo UK, Rough Trade (UK, which has a great write-up, too), or Forced Exposure (US).

Buddha Machine 2 released: Ambient device [Digital Tools]

Official site from FM3 collective

Hands On: Buddha Machine 2 [Gear Log, which does a real mini-review of the box]

And here it is in action. It sounds utterly fantastic – it really is a musical work of art, as an object:

  • Infinite stoner drone choons. Sweeet.

  • anonymous


  • dead_red_eyes

    Ahhh, I love the Buddha Machine. It's a great little device. Stars Of The Lid in a compact portable box I say!

  • Buddha FM is the typical product that looks exciting and turns out to be the most boring thing ever.. since you can't do anything with it. I got one and got bored after 15 mins. There's not even any good bend points.

    from the moment you get it in your hands it's all down hill.

  • Mark

    If Cycling74 is smart, they'll start looking into ways of running MaxMSP patches on portable devices…
    Maybe even bring out a device themselves together with another company. I like functionality separated and don't want to buy an iPod/Phone just because it can do THIS.

  • samu

    This sorts out some of my Christmas shopping, at least… and I'll have to pick one up for myself, as well. I've been loving Bloom on the iPhone recently.

    I take your point on the closed box approach, Peter, but in a way that's part of the appeal for me, to the extent that even pitch bend starts to water it down. The very fact that it simply is what it is (ugh), like an audio toaster… In an odd way, I appreciate the totally closed (like this) and the totally open (like the monome) more than most of what falls between.

  • I love this…simply and cool

  • @samu: Interesting, and yeah, even in my conflicted brain I can make a strong argument for that. I guess the other issues was the boredom thing – how I'd feel about it after a period of time.

    @Mark: As for Max running on portable devices, Pd is already there:

    — runs on PDAs. And even that project is likely to be dated, because smarter mobile devices are just looking like computers. (Aside from the iPhone, think mobile devices running Linux.) For RjDj, they're not running a "mobile" version of Pd, they're running the full release and even a handful of externals.

    Hans Christoph Steiner is working on this stuff now at Eyebeam here in NY. Here's a video:

    And while this server is unresponsive for me right now, his project updates:​proje

    He is working with PDa (Pd Anywhere) because he's rescuing old PDAs and such. (See also: old iPods.)

    I wouldn't rule it out for Max, but in this case Pd benefits from being more modular, being open source, etc. Max's strength is on the desktop.

    There's no question you can't build something that looks increasingly like a Buddha Machine that has a computer of some sort inside. That's not to take away from what FM3 have done — but just saying, if this other angle interests you, you've got some possibilities. 😉

  • Chris

    A Buddha Box with an open chip would have me well satisfied for years to come. It would be the perfect inspiration/imaginative container for the kind of music I really want to make. I don't care about iPhones anymore — I'm already burned out by all the new apps and the tiny interface. What I want is a cheap plastic box with one tiny speaker that makes my imagination cream with strange possibilities. Taking it all down from Lo-Fi to No-Fi…emptiness in a box — loaded with clips you can use at your day job of choice, or on a deserted island of no importance.

  • Adrian

    I have to say I am a little underwhelmed by Buddha Machine 2 – the build quality is not as nice as the previous model, and the loops just don't grab me as much. The pitch control is nice though.

    One bone to pick – I've seen people in a few places use the word "generate" or "generative". Surely this implies the music is created on the fly? And that's certainly not the case with the Buddha Machine.

  • Sorry, yes, it "generates" sound in the way an alarm clock radio does. 😉

    It is, however, linked philosophically to generative music, if not so literally — and Eno was the first customer. Now, I'd like something that really *was* generative in the sense of making its own musical materials; that was sort of my point here. (Even Eno's own iPhone app, incidentally, is only partially generative — only when you stop messing with it, interestingly enough.)

  • RCUS

    +2 on the underwhelmed list. I just don't get stuff like this. Maybe I shouldn't knock it though considering I don't smoke weed, practice budhism, or meditate. Perhaps I should start?…… Ahh who am I kidding. No time for meditation. I'm too busy thinking about that damn korg nanopad and how I'm going to stuff it into my Miko somehow!

  • Aaron
    ^ cheaper
    buy some of these and see if there are any bends?

  • Monolake did a whole album with sounds form this machine…

  • Cort3x

    I must say, from the very beginning I have failed to see what is so interesting about the Buddha Machines. Is it for people who've never tried a tape recorder? Oh wait, it's got no recording function. Maybe it's for people who want a simplified iPod?

    Can you even play two loops at once, or do you have to buy two Buddha Machines to do that?

    I think it's an object which has gathered undeserved hype, and that's all there really is to it. I may be wrong, though – I've never touched one.

    Is there anyone here who has one and has something positive to say about it? And I don't mean "it sounds good" or "I like it".

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  • cody

    I think you have to observe this device from more of a meditational perspective. I just received my two machines today and have been listening to them for over two hours and haven't lost interest yet. I've got them set up on two seperate external audio sources and it sounds wonderful:) I also don't smoke weed or drink and haven't for a long time, you simply need to realize what the device is and what you may or may not desire it for. It is not a keyboad or sampler, i'm sure you could rig one up easily enough and get extra creative.. but originally it is a box that plays nine droning loops. If you adjust your expectations of what you want to hear and how you want to hear it, these things can produce new sounds for an infinite amount of time. The fact that i have two just makes things doubly interesting.

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