Kircher’s Cat Piano

Kircher’s Cat Piano

In the 17th century a German Jesuit scholar called Athanasius Kircher made a Cat Piano. The invention was described in the book Musurgia Universalis published in two volumes in Rome in 1650.

In order to raise the spirits of an Italian prince burdened by the cares of his position, a musician created for him a cat piano. The musician selected cats whose natural voices were at different pitches and arranged them in cages side by side, so that when a key on the piano was depressed, a mechanism drove a sharp spike into the appropriate cat’s tail. The result was a melody of meows that became more vigorous as the cats became more desperate. Who could not help but laugh at such music? Thus was the prince raised from his melancholy.

What about giving to him the same treatment that he gave to the cats, only using another appendage of his body, since he didn’t have a tail? (via wmmna)

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14 Responses to Kircher’s Cat Piano

  1. P-E Fronning says:

    As long as they don’t make a dogpiano!

  2. L says:

    that’s pretty horrid, although the picture is funny in a twisted way….

  3. peacay says:

    I hope people don’t judge Kircher on this alone. He did so so so so much more. He is one of the most fascinating figures from the renaissance – this cat piano is a tiny moment (awful of course) in time from 400 years ago and was not really out of the ordinary in terms of treatment of animals back then.
    I know this story/picture is a popular netmeme at the moment but it kind of depresses me to see it everywhere when all the other automata and magical inventions and amazing writings from Kircher remain hidden. There are many other amazing images in his books too.
    *sigh*
    A 2-second ‘sound-bite’ will always win over an essay I suppose.
    (ps. I’m not criticizing you Bibi – I’m just talking out loud 😉

  4. Bibi says:

    P-E… I don’t think that do that with any animal or live created is a good idea. 😛
    ———————–
    Yes, L… I hate that idea.
    ————————
    Hi Pecay, I can imagine that he had some brilliant ideas, but I didn’t like of that idea. Ok, I hate that. And I was angry with that creation. I just don’t like when people do bad things to others and animals other creatures.
    I understand your point of view and I had to search for more of his works. But I was too upset with that to not post. I’m glad that you understood my point of view too. 🙂

  5. David says:

    I like your idea of a Kircher piano! Perhaps different body parts could be used to get different notes. The high note location is obvious. Maybe a punch in the stomach for a low note? (**ooph!**)

  6. Bibi says:

    Hi David, I said that to my boyfriend, your suggestion about use different parts of the body, and he made a scary face. 😀

  7. David says:

    🙁 les pauvre chatons…. 🙁 🙁 🙁

  8. Ole Blue says:

    Cruel, unusual yet funny in a sick way.

  9. Bibi says:

    In a very sick way…

  10. Bibi's box says:

    Athanasius Kircher

    My apollogies to Kircher’s fans. He made that stupid Kircher’s Cat Piano, however the German jesuit was also responsable for many great inventions and ideas as the Athanasius Kircher Project and Proceedings of the Athanasius Kircher Society sites sh…

  11. Bibi's box says:

    Athanasius Kircher

    My apollogies to Kircher’s fans. He made that stupid Kircher’s Cat Piano, however the German jesuit was also responsable for many great inventions and ideas as the Athanasius Kircher Project and Proceedings of the Athanasius Kircher Society sites sh…

  12. Fredda says:

    Hi Bibi, I checked out Kircher’s site and read all the archives of the members or their society. Not an amazing feat for me cuz they have only 3 pages of archives.
    I learned a lot of amazing things, like the feral children/people and some cool houses/strange architecture from all over the world.
    p.s I’m addicted to cats so you can imagine my reaction to a cat torture device. that said, peacay’s comment makes me more determined to learn more about the extremely fascinating (and probably wonderful) Kircher.

  13. In reply to peacay above, I’d like to say I find it difficult to imagine that cruelty to animals was any more normal in the late Renaissance than it is today. Have you seen any evidence that we’re making some kind of progress in this area? I’m not an animal rights activist…just an advocate for meaningful reasoning about history. Also, I’ve looked through Kirchner’s other innovations and don’t find anything particularly redeeming about them. He worked for the bad guys, right?

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