Friday 29 January 2010

Cat Playing Piano

There is a cat playing piano on the internet. This is another one of those cat-story-video-picture-freaky-type-thing that appeals at the moment. Cats provide us with a lot of entertainment but a lot of the time I am not sure that what is happening is entirely respectful of the cat. In fact, we can go back in history a long way to discover another but different example of cat disrespect, worse than that, it was cat pain or a form of cat torture and it concerned cats and pianos too: The Cat Piano (see below).

First though a cat playing piano. Here is the video:

To be honest it is a cat that is playing around with the keys of a piano. The video maker has probably propped his cat up on the stool and plonked the cat’s paws on the keys and filmed several short sequences with an enormous amount of patience because I am sure that there were a load of aborted attempts. You can see how short sequences are spliced together in this video.

I suppose the question some people ask is whether this cat, Nora, is actually making music. I say, no. But she is enjoying playing around on the keys for a while and she quite possibly enjoys the sound they make. But composition of music, no. Now that is going to spark off some comments, I expect!

I know that I am a bit of a  grumpy old man but this video, that has been seen more than a staggering 16m times (at Jan 2010) is interesting, yes, but a bit pathetic and it shows the publics’ desire for gratification in any way possible. Just entertain me – any way, we don’t care. And if it’s a cat so much the better. It is a modern version of the Scarlatti story that I refer to below and what follows:

Cat Piano

cat piano Put several cats with different meows or voices into a row of confining boxes or containers and place their tails to the rear. Above the tails place piano keys that when depressed hit the cats’ tails causing the cats to squeal, meow or make a sharp noise of displeasure. And, voila, the people of the time (1500s until as late as 1773 in Prague) were heartily entertained once again at the expense of the cat.

On one occasion a bear was trained to play a cat piano to entertain the then King of Spain in 1549. And on another occasion spikes were stuck into the tails of cats when the keys were depressed – charming. It is all slightly distasteful to me, I am afraid to say.

So based on the examples discussed, the history of the cat and music went from cats making the piano to actually playing it.

Cat Composing on a Piano

Cats playing piano doesn’t stop there. It is said (and I am not sure how true this is) that the well known composer, Scarlatti (Giuseppe Domenico Scarlatti (October 26, 1685 – July 23, 1757) an Italian composer, was inspired to compose the piece, “The Cat’s Fugue” after his cat walked over the keyboard of his piano. He copied down the notes. That is similar the cat playing piano story above.

The Film “The Cat Piano”

Once again, it doesn’t quite stop there. A new animated short film, The Cat Piano, has been recently released (2009, I believe – it has received several awards including the Australian Film Institute Awards, Best Short Animation, 2009). A city of singing cats is preyed upon by a shadowy figure intent on performing a twisted feline symphony. It is narrated by Nick Cave. He talks briefly about his role in the making of the film in the video below:

…and here is another video (pictures speak louder that words) previewing the film:

From Cat Playing Piano to PoC Forum

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