Experimental Music: Zhang Jian (FM3)
Cultural Heritage

While geographically based in Beijing, FM3 works within a critically informed and technologically dynamic realm that traverses the globe. Reviews of their recordings (including the Buddha Machine) and performances appear on the pages–both physical and virtual–of influential contemporary cultural publications, as well as in fan blogs and websites. Such critical commentary surrounding FM3 situates their practices and products in a cosmopolitan context of aesthetics and creative craft that stretches beyond the geographically-bounded associations of concepts such as “tradition” or “culture.” The critiques that FM3 themselves engage in through the Buddha Machine and the various performance uses they put it to are elements of this critical sphere, and further align them with cultural currents flowing in and out of China.

The group’s relationship to technology also places them amidst cultural flows constituting China today. The production, manipulation, performance, and distribution of FM3’s music involves a web of creativity and communications technologies solidly anchored in a digital environment. Digital recordings of Chinese traditional instruments become loops manipulated in a computer and encoded on a small chip embedded in a plastic box at a factory in China–the Buddha Machine emerges! Using blogging software, the group creates their web presence [LINK] to announce upcoming performances and products, point users toward recent video content available online, provide contact information, and distribute audio and visual material that they have licensed through Creative Commons (e.g. the loops on Buddha Machine and Buddha Machine II). Parterning with a software developer enables FM3 to produce an iPhone application housing both versions of the Buddha Machine, transforming a small plastic box containing lo-fi audio loops into a sleek mobile tool integrated into an emergent platform for cosmopolitan computing culture.