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By Dennis Kambury
There are a number of tools available these days for transforming raw audio into musical textures. By adding a couple of these tools to your kit, you can create a vast palette of sounds from lush pads and unique rhythmic beds to searing flechettes of sonic mayhem from the simplest of sources. Here are a couple of my favorites.
Metasynth from U&I Software is generally known for its unique interface. This Mac-only application lets you "paint" in the harmonic and spatial structure of your music with Photoshop-like tools. But it's also great for resynthesizing existing sound files. In addition to standard effects such as reverb, echo, phasing, and flanging, Metasynth offers Stretch and Grain - effects that pull and twist your sound like audio taffy; Shuffler, which treats your audio like a deck of cards, re-ordering the sonic timeline; and Inertia, which picks off harmonics and lets them ring. Because these effects are based on the original sound, they generally deliver a very musical result!
Spektral Delay, a cross-platform application from Native Instruments, is an ear-bending treat for any sound file. Using FFT analysis, it splits your audio into separate frequency bands - up to 1,024 - and lets you control the level, delay time, and feedback amount of each band individually! Combined with LFOs and various sculpting tools, the possibilities for maximum warpage are truly prodigious!
Sound Forge, Sonic Foundry's PC-only editing app, is a more traditional approach to file mangling. But under the hood, this thing's a plug-in powerhouse. In addition to a full palette of its own plugs, Sound Forge supports DirectX audio plug-ins. You can chain multiple effects together and hear the results in real time. It also includes Acoustic Mirror, a plug that lets you apply the acoustic response of real spaces to your sound file.
One thing all of these products share is depth - when you first get one, you'll want to set aside a few hours getting familiar with their individual capabilities. Happy munging!