we make money not art: The Cat Piano

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we make money not art: The Cat Piano: “Athanasius Kircher, a 17th century German Jesuit scholar, described the cat piano in the Musurgia Universalis (1650.)

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.”

I’ve written a lot about Kirchner over the past year, as he was one of the founders of modern science and one of the last renaissance men, along with Da Vinci and Ben Franklin, professional amateurs at a time when amateur was the best anyone was… He was an egyptologist (pioneering the decoding of the hieroglpyhs), a geologist (getting lowered into Vesuvius on the brink of eruption, just to see what was happening), was a biologist (inventing the first modern hygenic methods and using a microscope in 1646 to study the blood). Most importantly for the technobabble I write, he’s believed to have invented the magic lantern, the first moving picture show,

People like Kirchner and Franklin seem to be back in fashion now, possibly because of their weird combinations of ideas and their flexibility in altering them with fixed religion, which our pick-n’-mix modern ethics (especially religons) seem to be moving back towards, possibly because they were just amazing inventors who are worth remembering, possibly because (our) people’s experiences with the internet are showing them that there are thousands of aspiring authors, artists and acolytes out there, all of whom want to be good at everything; we’re all photographers, writers, artists now with the software computers provide, all of us amazingly-equipped amateurs, raised technologically up to be renaissance men. I’d love to ahve seen what the originals would have done with what we have nowadays. (Probably burn it for heresy, or dissect it yes, but the reaction would be worth observing.)

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