The true story of Cat Organ

The Cat Organ

The cat organ, or cat piano, is an imaginary instrument or supposedly imaginary (I hope) appeared several times in the literature, notably in a text by Jean-Baptiste Weckerlin:

The most curious was on a chariot that carried the most singular music that can be imagined. It held a bear that played the organ; instead of pipes, there were sixteen cat heads each with its body confined; the tails were sticking out and were held to be played as the strings on a piano, if a key was pressed on the keyboard, the corresponding tail would be pulled hard, and it would produce each time a lamentable meow. The historian Juan Christoval Calvete, noted the cats were arranged properly to produce a succession of notes from the octave… (chromatically, I think). (Nouveau Musiciana : extraits d’ouvrages rares ou bizarres, anecdotes, lettres, etc. concernant la musique et les musiciens, 1890)

My Rare and Strange Instruments banner is another imaginary version of the cat organ, by the talented illustrator Elisa Carré (his page with a lot more to see!)

THE CATASTROPHONY is a tribute to the historic Cat Organ by musician and instrument creator Henry Dagg. One of several instruments on which he performs in a variety act, it is shown here during a rehearsal (with Ben Saul on Piano) for a performance at Clarence House for a live public audience including Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall. This rehearsal and the final performance were both recorded for Broadcast by BBC News.

To conclude with cat instruments, here is a little gem of animated short film produced by the People’s Republic of Animation, which takes up the theme of Cat Piano seen from the cats side:

Others animal instruments

The piganino is another version, with pigs…imaginary too!

The Monty Python’s Flying Circus contains a presentation of the mouse organ, played with two large wooden mallets:

The text by Jules Verne M. Ré-Dièze and Mlle Mi-Bémol tells us the establishment of a children’s organ, truthful! (sorry no video)

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About Nicolas Bras 16 Articles
Homemade Instrument maker, rare and strange instrument seeker / Bricoleur d'instruments, chercheur d'instruments rares

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