Thursday, May 24
Baroque Things to Do With Cats
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. ~Kircher, Musurgia Universalis, 1650And so we have Fr. Athanasius Kircher's Infamous--and distinctly Pythonesque--Cat Piano. Don't blame him, he didn't invent it, he just described it. For more, see here, here, here and here.
For more inhumane Baroque cat entertainment, there's also the catoptric cat theatre invented by the great man during those spare moments when he wasn't flying prank dragon-shaped kites over the Roman College in order to freak out the Dominicans down the street.