The iJamming! Weekly Download: ‘Layering Buddha’

One thing I’ve always loved about electronic music is that so much of it abandons the traditional “pop” format of verses and choruses and instead focuses on the themes, motifs and moods of classical music. And then some of it even throws away these rules and opens itself up to the idea of music as pure math, following the likes of Igor Stravinsky, John Cage and La Monte Young to (il?)logically extreme conclusions.

Such is the case with ‘Layering Buddha’, a piece – or rather a multitude of pieces – by Berlin-based composer and performer Robert Henke. ‘Layering Buddha’ is named not for the lovable fatty with the peaceful smile but for the FM3 Buddha Machine, which Henke describes as “a low-fi loop playing device containing nine prerecorded loops which cannot be changed by the user.” Clearly intrigued by its possibilities, Henke slowed down these loops to reveal “hidden details,” then ran them through the electronic geek’s standard box of tricks to create a series of new loops that qualify as something more live moving sound. These were released late last year as both a full-length CD and a series of 7” singles, which Henke would love you to play over and against each other if, like him, you own more than one turntables.

Layering Buddha by Robert Henke, available as a CD, a series of 7″ singles, and as a live MP3.

You can hear samples of these ‘Layering Buddha’ tracks at his website. You can also listen to – and download– Henke’s debut live performance of ‘Layering Buddha,’ recorded on January 31 2007 at Maria am Ufer during the Club Transmediale events in Berlin. For this show, Henke placed himself and the audience inside a ring of six speakers, ensuring that the listener’s impression would change depending where they were stood or sat at a given moment in time.

The live MP3 is in boring old stereo, but listen to it on headphones on a long bus ride, or a walk, or just while lying in bed trying to steal an hour from this busy world, and you’ll understand soon enough why the machine was named after the Buddha. This is transformative music that echoes the hypnotic effect of Tibetan chants. There’s no melody, no rhythm, no key signature or time signature, no bridge or verse… but there is a sense of a journey that both begins and ends, and it’s one that is almost entirely tranquil. Along the way, it forces us to question our definition of music. I love it.

‘Layering Buddha’ Live MP3 (warning: very large file)

(With thanks to Riot Nrrrd for the initial link.)

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October 2021