It probably won’t come as a surprise that I have a musical cat. His name is Piccolo, after all, and he was raised in a musical household. I knew someone once who claimed that she could not practice her guitar or recorder because her kitties couldn’t tolerate the sounds. Tragically, they had not been exposed to live music-making in the home from kittenhood, so they hadn’t learned that it was not, in fact, the sound of predators or other kitties in distress. As with music education for humans, it’s good to start young. 😉
Piccolo is completely unfazed by the sound of me playing the piano or guitar, or singing. In fact, he has been known to attempt to sit in my lap while I play, which is inconvenient yet adorable.
He also has a habit of walking across my digital piano’s keyboard; it’s the easiest way for him to access my desk, which is essential when he wants to 1) climb onto the windowsill or b) demand my attention by getting between me and the computer. Since the keyboard is often turned on, Piccolo has become an accidental composer. (Occasionally, inspiration strikes him in the middle of the night; if I’ve forgotten to turn the piano off before bed, this can be rather alarming!)
Now, I know he’s not the only musical cat in the world, not by a long shot. As is well-documented on youtube, cats are naturally gifted at playing the theremin.
But Piccolo’s main competition is certainly Nora the Piano Cat™. And that’s fine — there’s room in the world, 😉 and Nora and Piccolo have different styles, so it’s all good. I would say that Nora is more of an improvisor/live performer, and her style is minimalist, focusing on repeated notes and intervals. Piccolo, on the other hand, is a composer/recording artist, with a fairly modernist, pointillistic style. Both cats clearly owe a large debt to modern and free jazz, though.
Just for the record, I’m not an overbearing stage mother with my little feline prodigy. The recording thing was his idea — that is, if you’re willing to project volition onto a cat jumping on the keyboard and hitting the record button before walking across the keys. If you have any objections to the rampant anthropomorphizing of our animal friends that is taking over the world today (or at least the internets), well, I’m sorry my friend, but that ship has sailed! 😛
Herewith, the first volume of Piccolo’s Collected Works.
Composition #1 is clearly influenced by the First Piano Sonata by Pierre Boulez, although Boulez would surely disapprove of the octave leap at the 5 second mark. Piccolo knows that rules were made to be broken!
In Composition #2, Piccolo experiments with the different instrument sounds built into the digital piano. He particularly likes the vibraphone sound.
Composition #3 continues in the same vein as Composition #1, covering a broad pitch range (for a kitty, I mean) and incorporating a high degree of dynamic contrast. But it is sparser, and almost elegiac in its melancholy. Piccolo is not afraid to have moments of silence in his music, or to let it develop slowly. John Cage and Morton Feldman would be pleased, I think!
After his hard work, the musical master is taking a well-deserved nap. But he’ll be back at it soon — next time Euterpe pays him a visit (or Mom gives him some catnip! 😉 ).
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