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MMD > Archives > May 1998 > 1998.05.12 > 07Prev  Next

Cat Organ
By Jeffrey Borinsky

A friend culled this from <alt-technology.obsolete>.  The music
may be mechanical; perhaps an early example of a catliope.

Jeffrey Borinsky

 - - -

Dead medium:  the Cat Piano

Source: *The Fireside Sphinx* by Agnes Repplier,
3rd edition, Houghton Mifflin, 1939.

From the chapter "Persecution":

   "To Brussels is due the unenviable distinction of having produced
the first cat organ, in 1549. This triumph of ingenuity was designed to
lend merriment to the street pageant in honor of Philip the Second, and
is described by Juan Cristoval, a Spaniard in attendance upon the King.

   "'The organ,' says Cristoval, 'was carried on a cart, with a
great bear for the musician.  In place of pipes, it had twenty cats
separately confined to narrow cases, from which they could not stir.
Their tails were tied to cords attached to the keyboard of the organ.
When the bear pounded the keys, the cords were jerked, and this pulled
the tails of the cats, and made them mew in bass or treble notes,
according to the nature of the airs.'

   "Such an invention could have afforded, at best, but doubtful
entertainment; yet the cat organ was so widely appreciated that German
humourists undertook to alter and improve it; and after a time a choice
variety of instruments were constructed, in all of which cats were
induced by some well applied torture to furnish forth the necessary

(Message sent Tue 12 May 1998, 08:22:54 GMT, from time zone GMT+0100.)

Key Words in Subject:  Cat, Organ

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