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The cat piano

Submitted by on October 19, 2009 – 9:18 pm 15 Comments

Cats and synthesizers have become a bit of a synth-meme in the last year or two. I love synths, but I am definitely not a fan of cats . This is why the KatzenKlavier, or cat piano, is an especially awesome instrument to me.

The Cat Piano is an invention by a crazy german by the name of Athanasius Kircher. It’s basically a keyboard case with a line of cats, their tails fixed in place underneath hammers. When a key is pressed, the hammer hits the corresponding cat’s tail (one cat per key), causing the cat to cry out in pain.

The cats are of course arranged in chromatic order according to their natural voices. Oh, and of course it’s fully polyphonic, and even has polyphonic aftertouch control (press harder, louder cry).

Another German by the name of Johann Christian Reil (1759-1813) had the idea of using the KatzenKlavier for the purpose of treating patients who had lost the ability to focus their attention. He firmly believed that if they were forced to see and listen to this instrument, it would inevitably capture their attention and they would be cured. Go figure.

A studio called The People’s Republic Of Animation put out an award-winning video called “The Cat Piano”, telling the tail tale of a city of cats who are kidnapped by a human in order to make a cat piano.

Here is the film, it’s long-ish (and arty), but excellent.

I wish we had someone around here collecting up all the stray cats (or mice) for something useful like this. Meow, Meow Meow.


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