Musical Cats

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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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August 6, 2009 - 3:11am
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