Design we love: Buddha machines

Maybe there ought to be a column in this blog called Design That Simply Catches Our Fancy—a place to explore objects that, while they may not kick the history of design ahead by much, are, nevertheless, attractive and pleasing.

Like the Buddha Machine. We noticed a table full of them at INabstracto on Queen West the other day: small, brightly coloured, pocket-size devices (the speaker-holes tagged them as sound devices) for…well…for what?

It turns out the objects are Buddha Machines. Which is as paradoxical a name as you’ll find anywhere.

What are Buddha Machines? They are small loop players with one on-off button and the miniscule speaker we mentioned. As first introduced in 2005—by the Beijing-based music duo of Christian Virant and Zhang Jian (two pioneers of electronic music in China)—the Buddha machine contained a chip which held nine digitally encoded drones, ranging from 5 seconds to 40 seconds each (the “Buddha” name stemming from the meditation-inducing chants and vocal “loops” heard in Buddhist temples). The 2010 edition—shown here—replaced the electronic drones with loops—we’re getting all this from Google, by the way—performed on the Gu Qin, an “ancient classical Chinese instrument.”

Pick one up at INabstracto and hold it up to your ear like a conch shell. You won’t hear the ocean, but you will hear a haunting, pleasingly formless, insinuating kind of sound—somewhere between music and the sounds of your own consciousness taking a big breath and relaxing. Perfect for busy, harried condo-dwellers., yes? Buddha Machines cost $35.38.
INabstracto Mid Century Modern Furniture & Design is at 1160 Queen St. West