Bora Yoon holds a small purple box in her hands. “It’s the Buddha Box II, which is a meditative box that Brian Eno made very famous, ” she says. “Many people think that he made them, but he just went to China and bought a lot of them.”
She flicks a tiny switch on the side of the device, and a very low-fi transistor drone emerges from its plastic speaker. “It’s just small little repeating loops of sustained tone, just something to help you, wherever you are, to meditate.”
The Buddha Machine is just one of the many strange items in Bora’s sonic arsenal. At her apartment studio in Brooklyn, there are disassembled wind chimes at her feet, effects pedals, singing bowls, a hand-cranked radio on the shelf, a conch shell, a toy xylophone and tin cans. She composes lyrical soundscapes with these objects, her ethereal voice, the viola, violin, guitar and Max/MSP.
When we visited her last week, Bora shared with us a piece she’s working on now, which is based on her travels in Thailand and the sound of a new instrument she’s created with LEMUR, called the Subwoofing Spoons. In this first video clip, she discusses her compositional process and the origins of the spoons:
In the next clip, Bora performs the piece, using the Subwoofing Spoons, her voice, viola, the chime sticks and the Buddha Machine. Some neighborhood dogs make their own contribution:
As a composer and performer, Bora’s graced the stages at BAM and Lincoln Center, and filled the sacred space at Church of the Ascension with sublime sound. She’s collaborated with other artists such as guitarist Kaki King, DJ Spooky and Ben Frost, and her album ((PHONATION)) contains her piece PLINKO: A Cellphone Symphony, which was profiled in the Wall Street Journal.
(Keep your speakers turned up when you visit!)