Feline Piano Concerto

Posted: August 8, 2009 in Classical Music, Culture, Idle Nonsense

I saw this YouTube video of a piano concerto written for a cat and my head just about exploded with all the mixed emotions and conflicting ideas it caused.

First of all, the concerto is fairly craftily written around video that was undoubtedly assembled out of sequence from different bits to create a “performance.” The scare quotes are purposeful, since the cat at the piano would never be able to reproduce the performance. While the composer’s skill is evident, the cat’s skill is equivalent to that of elephants, monkeys, and earthworms that “paint” abstracts, which is to say, there is no skill at all beyond having figured out the basic mechanism for applying paint or making noise at the piano. The immediate, positive response of the audience is to be expected, I suppose. It’s the same sort of pandering stunt as the robot conductor that everyone liked about a year ago.

It bugs me, obviously, that the technical skills to produce the video or program the robot make decidedly crass artistic choices inevitable. Such decisions are made all the time by promoters and marketers trying to attract audiences. But the core audience for classical music has been shrinking for decades. So how effective is it, really, to debase the art just for a cheap stunt? It’s quality that’s compelling.

  1. Could the audience response be lifted from something else? This is a cute trick (or series of them) and fake applause seems fair within the contest. But the video made me queasy: I don’t get it, either.

  2. Curly Wurly says:

    Come on … in a really uptight world we need some BLOODY levity … and who says only humans have ability … learn to RELAX and learn to LAUGH. As for Ms Maher why the heck would it make you queasy, its just a little kitty wacking the key board and you are ready to toss your cookies…SHEESH!

    • Brutus says:

      Since you’re telling me to lighten up, Curly, it’s clear that you haven’t read enough of the blog. I’m definitely not a light character (I spell definitely correctly, BTW). Or maybe you have read enough and you’re just in the wrong place.

      You also ask, “who says only humans have ability?” Well, I do. And not even all humans at that. The whole point of high art, such as the piano concerto, is reduced to nothing if it can be done by a cat. Sure, it’s a funny video, even appealing, but the joke’s on us. I guess not everyone recognizes that.

  3. Curly Wurly says:

    Oh and as for your blog title, I am definately Ascending and certainly these damn spiral staircases make me QUEASY…

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