The Katzenklavier – A piano made out of Cats

This is Nuts

When I was doing some research for this blog I came across the Katzenklavier. It’s like something out of a horror film starring  Boris Karloff!

Imagine a piano made from the anguished cries of thousands of cats. Now imagine that this is not some tortured artist’s work, but an instrument designed not for musical purposes but for the treatment of psychiatric disorders.

How did it work?

The Katzenklavier or the cat piano as I like to call it was a creative, sickening idea that’s sure to make cats run a mile. Drawings based on historical descriptions show a keyboard with seven or nine cages corresponding roughly to the pitch range where their meowing occurs. Each key on the keyboard is assigned to a different cat and each one has its own tail held down by nails in order for you to press and release keys corresponding with where their meows should sound out from! Makes perfect sense really

How popular was the Katzenklavier?

It was invented by a German Jesuit renaissance man named Athanasius Kircher sometime in the 17th century but to the relief of many cats, the contraption was never built.

What if it had been used

If it had been used how was it meant to help the treatment of psychiatric disorders? Johann Christian Reil, An 18th-century German physician wrote that the device was intended to shake mentally patients who had lost the ability to focus out from their fixed state and into conscious awareness. The patient must be placed so that they are sitting in direct view when playing a fugue on this infernal instrument, watching their expressions closely for any sign which would indicate what kind of feeling it is generating within them at present time during composition.

Would it have worked?

I doubt that very much. I think that the treatment of psychiatric disorders would have been worsened by watching cats being tortured.