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Katzenklavier: A Medicine For Melancholy

Cat Piano from ‘La Nature,’ 18831

The “Cat Organ,” or “Cat Piano,” was an idea attributed to, but probably not executed by, the German Jesuit Scholar, Anthanasius Kircher, S.J. (1602 – 1680), in an attempt to treat the mentally ill—perhaps, an unceremonious origin to the notion of “music therapy.”

Through second-hand accounts, under the auspices of soothing the melancholy of a Prince:

…he enclosed in such a way that [the cats’] tails…were fastened and led through to certain determined channels. Upon these he furnished keys constructed with most slender pricks in the place of mallets…when the keys had been depressed by the fingers of the Organist, since with their very pricks they punctured their tails, the cats, driven to a state of madness, thundering with piteous voice now deep, now shrill, were producing a harmony arranged from the voice of cats, which thing both moved men to laughter and was able even to drive the mice themselves to the fields.

Kasper Schott from A Man of Misconceptions: The Life of an Eccentric in an Age of Change, 2012 2