What can I do to shake up my editing?

August 25, 2013 11:06 AM

I've recently rekindled a creative relationship with a good friend, and for the first time in ten years we're going to try and make some experimental music together. Problem is, a lot of the end result will depend on creative editing, and in the run-up to our collaboration I've discovered that I'm pretty rusty. Any tips, tricks, techniques or tools I should know about?

So my friend and I decided to make music again and this time, because we live in different cities and vastly different time zones, we're going to do everything over the internet. The sonic direction will remain the same - noise, drone, loops, layers of audio ephemera and spoken word - but we're totally new to this style of collaboration, our last project in 2003 being an all-live affair.

We've decided to send bits and pieces we've recorded back and forth, building on each others work - or, if we so choose, twisting, mashing, pitch shifting and crosscutting the hell out of each other's stuff to make something totally new. The point is that it will involve a lot more time manipulating WAV files than recording new sounds.

I've used Audacity for many years but in my first attempts to get back on the editing saddle I find that (unsurprisingly) my skills haven't progressed that much in the last decade.

Do y'all have any suggestions for ways to shake up my calcified editing techniques? I know that with practice I'll find some new tricks responding to the material, but I feel pretty blocked right now and I'd like to get a jump start on the project. New tools always help me see things differently, but unfortunately my current budget is zero dollars. I've even tried Eno's Oblique Strategies (!!) but they never seem very relevant to the task at hand. FWIW I'm on a PC still running XP.

[...also appreciated would be artist suggestions for inspiration - I have listened to loads of John Oswald, Negativland, Christian Marclay and the like, but there's tons out there and if you know of any great experimental work that relies on editing, I'd love to hear it.]
posted by Chichibio (3 comments total)

reverse things

loop one thing over and over again then take another thing, loop that over and over again, but make sure it's at a different bpm, key, whatever - then put them together and see if there's any place where it gets interesting

get a cheap gm capable rack synth that the parts can be retuned with - midi channel 1 minus 3 tones - midi channel 2 +6 - and so on - just randomly screw with it then get a symphonic symphony midi file - beethoven, brahms, whatever - play it through the rack synth and record the results, then pick the places where something interesting happens and loop them

not all gm capable synths will do this but a roland sound canvas 55 will - (everyone will be hearing the results of my experiments with this soon)

do a search for "poodles and flan" - the original website's down, but it's a freeware app that you may be able to find at one of the sites google lists - it generates random midi files - realize them with whatever you have and record the results and edit into something you like - a good part of my jacaranda moon album was done with this

amazingMIDI converts wave files to MIDI files with interesting results

if you don't have anyway to work with midi, there's a crapload of free VST effects that may work with audacity, some of them pretty strange - i'd look on http://www.kvraudio.com/ - you can probably come up with a free midi editor/daw and a free vst host so you can use free instruments

i know that a lot of the stuff i've mentioned is midi based, and could cost a little money for hardware (i paid 69 for my roland sc-55), but it can help you expand the kinds of wave files you can generate

also, try mod trackers - openMPT, psycle are free and will manipulate wave files in ways that audacity won't - and they support vst instruments, too

the interfaces to trackers are kind of weird until you get used to them - but if you don't know what you're doing, then you won't know what you'll come up with, which is probably a plus - you can enter notes by name or play them with a computer keyboard if you don't have a real one
posted by pyramid termite at 5:58 PM on August 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'll have to play with some of pyramid termite's suggestions. Thanks for posting them!

I'll add two ideas:
Use Paulstretch to take short snippets and turn them into drawn-out symphonic textures.

Play around with "glitch" VST effects that cut up your wav files in rhythmic segments and rearranges them randomly or according to parameters you set. Two VSTs you might enjoy trying are Glitch (I see there's a v2 now!) and ktGranulator, if you can find it (it has been retired and replaced by a for-money thing called SaltyGrain, but I bet the old free ktGranulator is out there on the interwebs).

The stuttery distorted riff that opens my song "undulate underling" was created with the help of the Glitch plugin. It was originally a straight-forward, slower-sounding guitar-riff.
posted by edlundart at 2:24 PM on August 30, 2013

As far as manipulation goes, you can get a lot of interesting results by mapping functions to a controller and twisting knobs.

If you have an interface with multiple outputs, try taking tracks out of the computer, sending them to guitar pedals, or even just sending them out to speakers in the room and re-recording them.
posted by dubold at 2:27 AM on September 1, 2013

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