The Lives and Opinions of Literary Cats
Left Coast Chamber Ensemble
March 18, 2017 by the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble at the Berkeley Piano Club in Berkeley, CA
DURATION: 6 minutes
I was asked by the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble to write a piece that imagines the Brahms’s B Major Trio being heard through the looking glass, and all I could hear were cats.
Let me explain: there was a time when Johannes Brahms signed his musical works with the moniker “Johannes Kreisler,” a fictitious composer found in E.T.A Hoffman’s novel The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr. In this novel, a printer’s error accidentally splices and mixes the Tomcat Murr’s autobiography—yes, an autodidact cat wrote his own autobiography—with a book about the composer Johannes Kreisler, and the reader has a hard time figuring out who is the cat and who is the composer.
And if one cat isn’t enough, at the beginning of Through the Looking-Glass, Alice is playing with her kittens Snowdrop and Kitty, one of which is behaving badly (it’s the black one), right before she steps through that infamous looking-glass.
This ultimately begs the question: is this cat music or composer music? Is Johannes Brahms now Johannes Kreisler, or even Tomcat Murr, Snowdrop, or Kitty?