I love this made-up sound machine

20.21, Tuesday 7 Sep 2021

One of the side-effects of being a plain text dogmatist is that I don’t have images on my blog, so I’m going to have to describe this, and you’re going to have to actually follow a hyperlink if you want to see it (and honestly nobody does that).

HERE’S THE THING: BF-130 Dronal Birdsong Transducer which has the description, A made-up sound machine discovered in a forest clearing.

It’s an image of a blocky device that looks like a component of an old-school hi-fi, and it’s standing on tall black legs in a blurred out forest. On the front is a label: BF-130 Dronal [etc].

Tap, grab, and pan the image – it’s a 3D model.

Tap the image of the power button on the device: drone music plays. Turn the three dials on the device to adjust the music.

That’s it.

This is, to me, somehow, and I can’t put my finger on why: CAPTIVATING.

(Yes it’s being sold as an NFT, a “non-fungible token,” which is an emerging technology to associate rights like “ownership” with digital assets such as 3D models, which are otherwise - in the old world - infinitely replicable. But that’s not what I’m talking about right now.)

Similarly captivating:

The Buddha Machine device by China-based electronic music act FM3, here described on their Wikipedia page:

Roughly the size of a pack of cigarettes, the device features a single toggle switch to cycle through samples, a combined power and volume dial, and an integrated speaker. The device contains a chip holding nine digitally encoded drones, ranging in length from 1.5 to 40 seconds. The name and idea is derived from a popular Chinese device that intones repeating loops of Buddhist chanting.

It’s gorgeous. You hold it in your hand and press a switch to hear, with some static, via a cheap audio chip through a cheap plastic speaker through the mass-produced output of the vast factories of China: the sound of the cosmos.

I’ve got one upstairs, and I hope desperately that the battery hasn’t leaked. Mine is green.

The thing is that I don’t sit on Apple Music or YouTube listening to drone loops like this. (Okay I admit I have lost a couple hours to large gong YouTube but who hasn’t.)

And yet.

Here I am,

staring at the simulation of a fictional device in a forest that doesn’t exist, tuned into the sound 100%.

So my M.O. is to watch out for surprising moments of experience like this. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t make any sense logically, or if it seems absurd, or how tiny it is. But VR feels like this, and physical things connected to the internet felt like this once upon a time, and GPT-3 generated text still feels like this (here are my posts),_and my take is that once you can identify something which is the kernel of a viscerally _new experience, then that’s something like rare primordial matter that you can shape with your hands into something fuller in the future. I don’t need to understand it.

There are ways to experience digital sound that are better and more transporting than the ways we currently experience digital sound, that’s all I’m noting here. That’s funny.

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