This library grew out of my training as a classical composer. In graduate school, I studied John Cage’s music including Child of Tree (1975) which gave me the idea to explore the sounds of cacti. Cage’s use of amplified plant materials was full of exciting possibilities to investigate as a field recordist.
The cactus needles growl like supernatural animals and the spines’ grating texture against the bow produces wild screeches full of ultrasonic energy.
LIBRARY DESCRIPTIONIn Bowed Cactus, get a visceral collection of bowed and plucked cactus from the deserts of the American Southwest. Take a violin bow to a cactus spine and hear guttural screeches with intense, physical energy. Hear plucked needles popping in rich organic granulation. Hear thick, bowed spines growling like supernatural animals and single needles stuttering with real grit. This library offers you an extensive collection of sounds from unique organic sound source. Cactus sounds are incredibly soft and intimate in real life, but when recorded from two inches they morph into otherworldly creatures brimming with ultrasonic energy.
PITCH SHIFTED DEMO:
Please note: I made the “Pitch Shifted Demo” was made to demonstrate the potential of the sounds in this library. However, Bowed Cactus does NOT include pitch shifted sounds, only mastered field recordings.
I find it insane that a bowed cactus can be pitch-shifted and sound like a dinosaur! I think this is the sound my T-Rex logo would make in real life :)
WHICH CACTI MAKE COOL SOUNDS?
The short answer is that it takes a lot of trial and error to answer this question. Generally, I looked for cacti with strong, thick needles that aren’t too dense in order to leave room for the bow between the needles. Most of the cacti I used for this library were native plants from a family property in the Davis Mountains in West Texas.
The best local West Texas plant to record was the ocotillo or fouquieria splendens. These plants grow 25-foot stalks with large spines that are perfect for bowing. (For a reference, the plant on the library cover is an ocotillo). Also, many of the other desert flora, such as, green sotols and banana yuccas, make wonderful sounds when you bow their edges.
PERFORMING WITH THE CACTI
The trick was to “perform” the cactus in a musical way. I found ways to bow with gestures that made the cacti sound like living creatures. Although this took a lot of practice, I am extremely happy with the results. Listen to the T-Rex roar above for a good example of one of these gestures!
The picture below includes a few of the plants I used for this library.
As I recorded this sound library I found that bowing each cacti made intensely visceral sounds and that by plucking the cacti carefully I could find a variety of pitches on different spines of a barrel cactus! Additionally, I created some fantastic granular sounds by rubbing two cacti together. The needles on opposing cacti pluck each other and make the most beautiful pinging and popping sound.
After some experimenting, I concluded that contact microphones were not my best option for recording cacti sounds. My favorite microphone setup was my Sennheiser MKH 50 and 30 in Mid/Side, placed about two inches from the cactus. This close distance unlocked an incredible amount of detail and captured the short ultrasonic waves.
These cacti were by far the quietest thing I have tried to record. The key to making quiet recordings was to wear cotton clothes, record before meals so my stomach didn’t gurgle, and hold my breath during all recording takes.
I hope you’ve enjoyed listening to these wild organic sounds features in my Bowed Cactus Library. I can’t wait to hear what you design with them!
BOWED CACTUS – TESTIMONIALS
- “SoundDesign peeps, do not miss @trexbeverly‘s new sound library, BOWED CACTUS. Truly one of the most talented field recordists out there. Instant creature vocals and experimental textures for days.” – Nathan Moody
- “Always LOVE your creativity! Living in Scottsdale, AZ I have a ton of Ocotillo cactus by the studio… You just cost me a bow… because I just have to try this. Brilliant.” – Rick Allen
- “The demo’s for bowed cactus sound insanely cool – your creativity is inspiring! Please don’t stop releasing awesome stuff!” – Samuel Justice
- “This is a very unique and incredibly good sounding library. I can’t wait to use these sounds for creature design and weird backgrounds.” – Jef Aerts
- “Unfreaking real dude. Seriously incredible result and an inspiring work of creativity.” – Mark Camperell
THANKS FOR READING
Sound libraries are works of art and I hope you have enjoyed these behind these scenes stories. Really what I’m trying to say here is thank you. I’ve put a little piece of myself into each recording, and I hope that you love them as much as I enjoyed making them.