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Sonifi iPhone app lets your fingers remix music

November 17, 2009 |  5:48 pm

As countless bands release iPhone applications offering little more than a mobile version of their websites, electronic musician BT has a bigger goal. He wants to turn his phone into an instrument.

BT, along with a small team of developers at his company, Sonik Architects, built Sonifi, an iPhone app that lets users very easily manipulate songs on the fly.

Brian Transeau, best known by his stage name BT, scored the soundtracks to "The Fast and the Furious," "Zoolander" and "Go," in addition to gaining a significant underground following for his solo releases. His pioneering stutter sound effect influenced the trance genre.

A standard pop group's iPhone app offers little more than a band site, with music streaming, tour schedules, news and photos. MySpace's iLike built an entire business around it.

So, there's something to be said about a musician with a truly original utility. T-Pain has his Auto-Tune toy; Nine Inch Nails has its location-based Twitter app; and now, BT has Sonifi.

The app, available at the iTunes App Store, comes with just one song -- a dance track. But you can spend hours playing with it.

You manipulate a variety of sound effects by sliding your finger across the touch screen. Shaking the phone causes a stutter effect, and toggling the on-screen sliders cycles through the available instruments. The buttons are small, and it can get annoying trying to press them mid-song. But the app keeps the beat, so even if you're off time, Sonifi makes it sound natural.

Though powerful, the app enables beginners to have remixing superpowers. Sonifi had 40,000 downloads in its first three weeks after its summer release.

BT broke out Sonifi onstage during a performance in Holland (check out the video at the top) and plans to use it again in future shows.

"I used to go out with 15 synthesizers and drum machines," BT said over brunch a few weeks ago. Now, most of his stuff is performed on a laptop. "You just don't need it anymore," he said of full-blown instruments.

While BT is finishing up his new record, Sonik Architects is currently looking at ways to expand Sonifi's music selection to a more mainstream audience. Sonifi might expand to either band-branded remixing apps or a central downloading service to add songs.

-- Mark Milian

Video credit: BT