Monday, June 02, 2008

Katzenclavier


I can't resist sharing an
account of what is one of the most bizarre treatments I have read about. Johann Christian Reil (1759-1813), the very influential German psychiatrist, who first used the word psychiatry in 1808, describes the use of the Katzenclavier-- a piano made of cats. After voicing the instrument with suitable animals, they would "be arranged in a row with their tails stretched behind them. And a keyboard outfitted with
sharpened nails would be set over them. The struck cats would provide the sound. A fugue played on this instrument--particularly when the ill person is so placed that he cannot miss the expressions on their faces and the play of these animals--must bring Lot's wife herself from her fixed state into prudential awareness." We have made progress
in the last two centuries!

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