A few years ago, an experimental music duo called FM3 toured Europe, playing a 40-minute set that the duo’s founder Christiaan Virant describes as “very reductionist, very minimalist, very sparse.”
Some of these compositions were later released on a CD by Staalplaat, a specialty label based in Amsterdam; it sold about a thousand copies…that same sparse music was released again — not on CD but in a little plastic box called the Buddha Machine. Two years later, sales are approaching 50,000 units and still going strong.
The $25 Buddha Machine is the size of a cigarette pack, with one button, an on-off dial and a rather tinny speaker. Inside is a chip containing nine digitally encoded music loops. The button allows the listener to switch from one to another, but that’s the extent of user control over the experience, leading some observers to refer to the thing as the anti-iPod.