LiveCut is a free beat-slicing effects plug-in with a mind of its own. You can try telling it what to do, but it doesn't pay much attention. LiveCut is Remy Muller's admirable attempt to implement, as a VST and AU effects plug-in, the analysis and synthesis algorithms developed by Nick Collins for his BBCut Library, which codifies the principles of automated breakbeat cutting for the software instrument SuperCollider.
Muller's work is distributed under the name “mdsp” by the Smartelectronix consortium of developers (www.smartelectronix.com). You'll find a lot of excellent free and inexpensive software there, including two other mdsp offerings: the multiview spectrum analyzer Fre(a)koscope and the third-place winner in the 2006 KVR Developer Challenge, Fire.
LiveCut uses probabilistic algorithms to cut a chunk of audio from a longer phrase and then repeat the cut, with various kinds of processing, for the duration of the phrase. Typically LiveCut inserts a fill involving quick repetitions at the end of the phrase. You select from three cutting procedures — CutProc11, WarpCut, and SQPusher — set some rate and range parameters that affect the cutting and processing, and then let LiveCut have its way with your audio. You might, for example, choose the CutProc11 algorithm, select 16th-note subdivisions, set the phrase-length range from 1 to 4 measures, and specify processing parameters such as volume and pitch-shift range. LiveCut would use the CutProc11 algorithm to make a cut that's an odd number of 16th notes, choose how many times to repeat the cut (called the block size) before making a new cut, choose a phrase length between 1 and 4 measures, and repeat the blocks for the length of the phrase, adding volume- and pitch-shifting.
The outcome of LiveCut processing is unpredictable, but it produces interesting and musical results for a wide variety of material. Furthermore, you can pass individual tracks, mixes, and submixes through several instances of LiveCut, and you can use LiveCut as an insert or a send effect; something useful almost always comes out (see Web Clip 1). But as with all probabilistic effects, you may have to give it several tries before you get something you like. If you need to be in charge, LiveCut may not be the plug-in for you, but winging it has its charm.