So who’s going to change that? Recordist Yarron Katz, of course (and yes, I was really looking forward to writing that story headline :) ).
Here’s the story behind his new cat sound library series, how he got the cats to ‘perform’ – and why he’s become known as something of a cat whisperer:
The demo for Meow – Cat Essentials
Hi Yarron, how did you come up with the idea for a cat sound library?
Hi Asbjoern. It’s been in the back of my mind for a very long time. Like most Sound Designers I simply recorded everything around me. And it happened to be that I’ve always had cats, and my family had cats. I’ve also volunteered at animal shelters and feed the stray cats outside. On average I’d feed about 12 strays every day, but when the neighborhood cat lady went on holiday, I’d take over and could feed over 40! So naturally over the years I’ve acquired a tremendous amount of cat sounds.
With so many sounds, what approach did you take for the library?
My original plan was to release an absolutely massive library with everything, and perhaps a lite version. But it was a mammoth task that was taking too long and there was demand for a cat library. So I came up with the idea to split it into parts. When deciding how to approach the first one, I realized that most cat sounds were sporadic, overused and scattered around various different libraries. I decided that I’d provide a single go-to library that had all the core sounds in a single package with plenty variation.
When deciding how to approach the first one, I realized that most cat sounds were sporadic, overused and scattered around various different libraries
Once that was decided I could focus on exactly what one would need. I ended up cherry picking from 8 cats to get vocals with sweet, angry, aggressive, sad and begging characters and a plethora of vocalizations, giving you the full spectrum at your fingertips.
JASPER: Jasper – Beautiful on the outside, but crazy on the inside!
Despite the fact that cats seem to be a favorite pet within the sound community, there has been a strange absence of cat libraries – what gives?
I think the problem here is that while there is an abundance of cat owners, not every cat is going to make every sound you need for a library. So you may have a cat, but that cat is going to have a specific character and only produce a particular sound. So you don’t get much of a library out of it.
You may have a cat, but that cat is going to have a specific character and only produce a particular sound
I was in a unique position to be able to capture so many different cats that I ended up having enough of a selection to capture all the essential sounds and with a large variety of characters.
How are the sounds organized?
I based it around the specific cats since each has a particular style. Each folder has the cats’ names with all their vocals. Within the folder the files are named based on the cat and the vocal performance Eg: JASPER Annoyed Meows x 3.
The metadata includes and expands expands on those specifics since a meow could have a begging character, or a sweet character for example. So it’s pretty thorough.
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What was your recording setup – and how did you get the cats to “perform”?
My recordings started as far back as 2009. My earlier set up then was primarily my Røde NT4 fed into a Fostex FR2-LE. Later in the game, however, I knew I’d be recording vocals and not just cats at home but in the field and wanted to step it up, since I knew this library was going to become a flagship cat library. I did some tests and found the Røde NTG3 worked wonderfully on cats, because of its rich low end. I added a Fethead to the set up, which opens the sound up a bit, bringing its top end a touch closer to Senn416 territory while preserving the bass the Røde captures. I would have preferred a more narrow pattern on the Røde shotgun though, since at times I’d record strays in some noisy surroundings. Post Production could became a bit of a nightmare. Oh and a few lucky takes were caught with the SONY PCM-D100. Don’t leave home without it!
Regarding getting the cats to perform…
I was originally going to say, you simply have to be patient and take what you can get… but when I think about it, that’s not really true. Cats pick up on many signals, just like humans do. They can read facial expressions, body language and voice tone. Truth is I’m sure I was intuitively inspiring them to perform using all of the above. I made them them feel comfortable with me and already had a relationship with them so to speak by feeding them every day or recording family pets.
I’m known as something of a “cat whisperer”. A lot of experience I guess. And I have to live up to my surname you know
Cats are finicky creatures, you really have to earn their trust and affection. If they don’t like you they will ignore you, but at the same time if they do like you, they will make it clearly known. In many cases they were being vocal simply to get my affection. I’m known as something of a “cat whisperer”. A lot of experience I guess. And I have to live up to my surname you know.
AFORI: My (well-fed) Russian Blue. Also a rescue!
Any fun anecdotes from the making of the library?
For sure. This one cat who I named “Bastard Cat” (In the library he’s Bastardo) comes to mind. One of those mean nasty feral tomcats. He would beat up on all the other cats and steal their food. Anyhow, one time he got particularly violent while I was filling their water. Since cats hate water, I splashed some on him to get him scamper away from the other poor cats. He didn’t even move! He just looked at me as if to say, “Yeah… and well else you got?” I just stood there astounded. Despite his deplorable character, I was quite fond of him and him of me. He would follow me around for miles when I took late night walks. He wasn’t the only one. I enjoy going out at night between 3:00am and 5:00am recording sounds outside while it’s quiet. I’ve had to remove many a meow from “Fangs” in Post Production as he’d follow me around crying for me to pet him while I was trying to record crickets, crows or whatever.
FANGS: Fangs shows us how he got his name.
What’s one of your favorite recordings in the library?
Tough question picking a favorite, but I can tell you which sounds had the most impact on me. “Marty” the blind cat. The most astonishing cat I’ve ever met. He became part of the library because of his sad longing mewl. Don’t let the meows fool you though. He is a very happy and amazing fellow. I found him in a parking lot blind and starving. He was wild and wouldn’t let me catch him initially so I simply put food down for him and planned to get a cage to catch him somehow. However, he actually found his way to my street where the strays are fed.
He became part of the library because of his sad longing mewl. Don’t let the meows fool you though. He is a very happy and amazing fellow
Eventually I caught him, got him neutered and checked out at the nearby SPCA. We tried to give him a home at the SPCA offices but he was utterly miserable and would just cower in fear. He was a wild cat, and was completely unfamiliar with interior settings and human interaction. Sad to say but the people working at these places deal with so much cruelty day to day they become jaded. Everyone was working, and no one was helping him acclimatize.
Me and that cat lady I mentioned earlier decided we should put him outside near us and keep a very close eye on him. I was very hesitant but gave it a shot. I’d follow him as quietly as a possible from a far and was absolutely amazed! He knew all the nooks and crannies to get where he wanted. He’d also climb up and down walls and knew where stairs started and finished. I couldn’t believe it! Eventually he settled down two houses down from me and has been a familiar face to the locals for a few years now. He is now quite fat, lets me pet him and is even picky with his food. He specially gets tinned food mixed into his dried food just the way he likes it. So a sad tale but with a happy end especially considering the odds.
MARTY: Marty the amazing! A story of an indomitable spirit!
Now that you’ve provided all the core sounds, what can we expect next?
A lot of the more unusual cat sounds. I’ve got cats sneezing, vomiting, coughing, a cat in heat, scratching, drinking, eating and a bunch more – another comprehensive library but this time of the obscure. Not to mention kittens!
A big thanks to Yarron Katz for sharing with us the creation of ‘Meow – Cat Essentials’! Be sure to check out the library and listen to these amazing cats!
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