Note how chromatic Messiaen’s compositions are from the score above of Petites Esquisses d‘Oiseaux, which is available from Naxos performed by Håkon Austbø.
The notion that Messiaen’s music was like a cat playing has recurred recently in my mother’s mind when I bough a second copy of my favorite classical composition, Catalog d‘Oiseaux – this time by the Norwegian Håkon Austbø whereas my previous copy was by Martin Zehn. Though she was less offended than when hearing the quieter and less accessible organ pieces – which do possess tremendous power – it seemed ruder and more offensive for having been so long with that ridiculous idea first came into my mother’s (and brother’s) head.
So tonight, I thought I might see if there actually was some sound from a cat playing the piano to see whether it was so unlike real Messiaen that my laughter in ridicule was justified. It was to my surprise that I actually found something reasonably close to a cat playing the piano on YouTube – although the idea of my mother and brother was that the cat would actually walk up and down the piano and recreate Messiaen perfectly!
This one clearly is not Messiaen – though there are a few tiny traces of the sound of Catalog d‘Oiseaux and other Messiaen pieces.
This cat clearly is not like Messiaen at all – it is the random noises one would expect from a cat playing the piano!
Although this is not even a proper acoustic piano but a synthesised piano, the sounds actually mesh a little when I listened to this and Håkon Austbø simultaneously (this on the computer and Austbø on a speaker).
So I can say that perhaps there is a tiny grain of truth that Messiaen’s music on piano or organ is like a cat – but not nearly enough to make me feel a mixture of severe offence and laughter! Probably more offence with my look at a cat actually walking up and down a piano!
I have told my mother – and did tell her a long time ago – that she should stop saying Messiaen’s keyboard music is like a cat playing, but she says and I admit I find too much laughter in it!