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Musical Cats

Cats and music go together like Romeo and Juliet, rest and relaxation, or green eggs and ham. No one really knows why, but there they are.

1. Nora, the Piano-playing Cat

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Nora was adopted by a piano teacher with twin pianos in her home. As the students played, Nora figured out how to make the piano work on her own. Her first video on YouTube catapulted her into stardom. More videos followed, and then a DVD. Nora's talent inspired Lithuanian composer Mindaugas Piečaitis to write a number featuring the cat as soloist. The CATcerto, as it is called, premiered in in Klaipėda, Lithuania on June 5th, 2009, performed by the in Klaipėda Chamber Orchestra with Nora appearing via videotape.You can see the performance here.

2. Katzenklavier

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The idea of making music with cats goes back to the Middle Ages at least. A Katzenklavier is a cat piano. Not a piano for cats to play, but a piano full of cats! Cats were to be arranged in order of the tone of their natural voice. Their tails would be secured, and when their particular note was called for, a spike would strike a cat's tail, causing it to cry out. This odd instrument was designed by Athanasius Kircher around 1650. The idea is also attributed to German doctor Johann Christian Reil for the purpose of focusing his psychiatric patients attention. As fascinating as the katzenklavier is, the instrument was a concept only, and never put into use.

3. Drei Klavierstücke

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Cory Arcangel's latest project is a bit hard to understand, so I won't even try to explain it myself.

Recently I took a few months of my free time and decided to recreate Arnold Schoenberg's 1909 op. 11 Drei Klavierstücke (aka Three Piano Pieces) by editing together videos of cats playing pianos downloaded from Youtube. Schoenberg's Op11 is often considered the first piece of "atonal" music, or music to completely break from traditional western harmony which means it's not written in a "key".

He has three videos of Schoenberg's music as performed by cats at his website.

4. Animated Cats

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As funny as cats are, is it any wonder so many are conscripted to perform in music videos? Some of the more famous animated musical cats are the Kitty Cat Dance by Steve Ibsen,  the Record Store Cats, and Ninja and Viking Kittens from Joel Veitch. All are recommended for overall silliness.

5. Keyboard Cat

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Performer Charlie Schmidt made a funny video with his cat Fatso in 1984. It appeared that Fatso was playing the piano, but in actuality the very patient cat was acting as a puppet. The result was Cool Cat. The clip was uploaded to YouTube over twenty years later. In February of 2009, Brad O'Farrell used the Cool Cat video to "play someone off", but that video is now gone. He started a sensation, as everyone loved what is now called the "keyboard cat'. The fetching feline was tagged onto all sorts of videos, leading to the formation of at least two websites where such videos are displayed and a generator to help you make your own keyboard cat videos.

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This Just In
Police Recover Nearly 100 Artifacts Stolen From John Lennon’s Estate
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Keystone Features / Stringer / Getty Images

A collection of artifacts stolen from John Lennon’s estate, including diaries, glasses, and handwritten music, has been recovered by German police, the Associated Press reports. After arresting the first suspect, law enforcement is now working to apprehend a second person of interest in the case.

The nearly 100 items went missing from the New York home of the late Beatles star’s widow Yoko Ono in 2006. Years later, German police were tipped off to their whereabouts when a bankruptcy administrator came across the haul in the storage facility of a Berlin auction house. The three leather-bound diaries that were recovered are dated 1975, 1979, and 1980. One entry refers to Lennon’s famous nude photo shoot with Annie Leibovitz, and another was written the morning of December 8, 1980, hours before he was shot and killed. In addition to the journals, police retrieved two pairs of his iconic glasses, a 1965 recording of a Beatles concert, a 1952 school book, contract documents for the copyright of the song “I’m the Greatest”, handwritten scores for "Woman" and "Just Like Starting Over”, and a cigarette case.

German authorities flew to New York to have Ono verify the items' authenticity. "She was very emotional and we noticed clearly how much these things mean to her,” prosecutor Susann Wettley told AP. When the objects will be returned to Ono is still unclear.

The first suspect, a 58-year-old German businessman from Turkey, was arrested Monday, November 21, following a raid of his house and vehicles. The second suspect is one of Ono's former chauffeurs who has a past conviction related to the theft. Police officers are hoping to extradite him from his current home in Turkey before moving forward with the case.

[h/t AP]

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science
Scientists Analyze the Moods of 90,000 Songs Based on Music and Lyrics
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Based on the first few seconds of a song, the part before the vocalist starts singing, you can judge whether the lyrics are more likely to detail a night of partying or a devastating breakup. The fact that musical structures can evoke certain emotions just as strongly as words can isn't a secret. But scientists now have a better idea of which language gets paired with which chords, according to their paper published in Royal Society Open Science.

For their study, researchers from Indiana University downloaded 90,000 songs from Ultimate Guitar, a site that allows users to upload the lyrics and chords from popular songs for musicians to reference. Next, they pulled data from labMT, which crowd-sources the emotional valence (positive and negative connotations) of words. They referred to the music recognition site Gracenote to determine where and when each song was produced.

Their new method for analyzing the relationship between music and lyrics confirmed long-held knowledge: that minor chords are associated with sad feelings and major chords with happy ones. Words with a negative valence, like "pain," "die," and "lost," are all more likely to fall on the minor side of the spectrum.

But outside of major chords, the researchers found that high-valence words tend to show up in a surprising place: seventh chords. These chords contain four notes at a time and can be played in both the major and minor keys. The lyrics associated with these chords are positive all around, but their mood varies slightly depending on the type of seventh. Dominant seventh chords, for example, are often paired with terms of endearment, like "baby", or "sweet." With minor seventh chords, the words "life" and "god" are overrepresented.

Using their data, the researchers also looked at how lyric and chord valence differs between genres, regions, and eras. Sixties rock ranks highest in terms of positivity while punk and metal occupy the bottom slots. As for geography, Scandinavia (think Norwegian death metal) produces the dreariest music while songs from Asia (like K-Pop) are the happiest. So if you're looking for a song to boost your mood, we suggest digging up some Asian rock music from the 1960s, and make sure it's heavy on the seventh chords.

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