Techno Music and the Cat Piano: Everything New is Old Again

Cat Piano, 1883.

Cat Piano, 1883.

I love tech, and with each day it seems that we see something cool and totally new. But then, sometimes I run across things that remind me that some things we think are new started a long time ago.

This time around, the reminder comes courtesy of John Glassie in A Man of Misconceptions: The Life Of An Eccentric In An Age of Change. The book is a biography of Athanasius Kircher, a Jesuit priest and scholar who lived and worked throughout Europe in the turbulent 17th century. Kircher is a fascinating and eccentric guy. He was a linguist and natural philosopher (what we now call a scientist) working in the turbulent dawn of the scientific revolution. He was on board with the notion of measurement and observation-based science, yet so steeped in traditional explanations of physical and medical phenomena that he never really committed to either one fully. He did some genius stuff, but also got many things completely wrong.

What surprised me, though, were two things that he developed in the 1640’s: a technological music composition system and the cat piano. And here I thought these were both invented to be used for today’s top 40 radio…


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