Buddha Machine: A jukebox for the soul


Buddha Machine

One of the founding fathers of ambient music [Brian Eno] supposedly bought six of these machines. He is widely cited as being the person responsible for both developing and creating the term "ambient music," essentially music specifically designed to change your perception of an environment. For early examples of the genre listen to Music for Airports or The Plateaux of Mirror. Eno describes himself as a ‘non-musician’ although he has collaborated with many of the best known and most respected musicians in the world.

The Buddha Machine [literal translation from the Chinese] is a small box available in a variety of colours which plays a variety of sound loops either through the internal speaker or through a headphone jack. The device is almost the antecedent to the I-pod or MP3. Users toggle their way through the tracks which will play for hundreds of hours on a single pair of batteries. The box is self contained and cannot be modified. The sound is perhaps best described as lo-fi, ethereal, droning although the later models have much improved sound quality than the original 2005 model.

In 2017 the distinguished minimalist composer, Philip Glass, worked with Christiaan Virant and Zhang Jian (creators of the Buddha Machine and the performing duo, FM3) making some of his work available on the new generation of Buddha Machines, a way of celebrating his 80th birthday.

How you use the machine is entirely up to you but ideas include, encouraging youngsters to experiment with sound installation, creating an ambient restful mood outside for your friends, or use it as part of a performance or for your own listening and relaxation purposes. There is certainly scope to use two or more for gaming purposes and of course the process of listening to a deliberately restricted soundtrack can help to focus and train the mind [one of the purposes of the original Buddha Box’s found extensively throughout China.]

FM3 are at the vanguard of innovative, electronic Chinese experimental music, and amongst the few artists in the world who incorporate sounds downloaded from an i-pod, often whilst a performance is taking place.

Loops are available on Amazon,

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