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The Buddha Bender (v1 2015, v2 2016, v3 2023)

Designed and built as an interactive sound art experience at the Goethe-Institut in Washington, DC for Sound Scene VIII, staged by DC Listening Lounge. Successive iterations on the design have created three performable interfaces, each with its own sonic character.

Project Description

A well known Buddhist koan commands, "If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him." But what if you merely "hear" the Buddha as you do when playing one of those battery-operated mantra chant boxes? Since these novelties are controlled by a small microchip that moderates the speed at which the chant audio is played back, I propose a corollary koan..." If you hear the Buddha, circuit bend him".

This piece was conceived as an interactive experience for Sound Scene visitors. Version 1.0 was tested in this environment and version 2.0 emerged with additional controls and options for driving audio through a mixer. Version 3.0 includes the Resistance Randomizer, a drone pitch actuation system, and the Mittens of Silver, a pair of capacitive finger gloves permitting the perform to "become the resistor".


  • Battery-operated Buddhist mantra chant boxes

  • Electronic components

  • Wood, Wire

  • 3D printed objects

  • EMF fabric (silver thread)

photos by Neal Johnson

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