Text by John Keats (1795–1821)

Cat!
for voice (
G3–E5), clarinet,
percussion and piano

To Mrs. Reynolds' Cat

John Keats (1795–1821)

Cat! who hast passed thy grand climacteric,

How many mice and rats hast in thy days

Destroyed? How many tit-bits stolen? Gaze

With those bright languid segments green, and prick

Those velvet ears—but prithee do not stick

Thy latent talons in me, and up-raise

Thy gentle mew, and tell me all thy frays

Of fish and mice, and rats and tender chick.

Nay, look not down, nor lick thy dainty wrists—

For all thy wheezy asthma, and for all

Thy tail's tip is nicked off, and though the fists

Of many a maid have given thee many a maul,

Still is that fur as soft as when the lists

In youth thou enteredst on glass-bottled wall.

Extended techniques:

Speaking: from mm. 65-67, both the clarinettist and the pianist speak in a dramatic, hushed voice, mocking the words of the singer. This should be somewhat silly and theatrical.

 

Mouthpiece + Barrel: twice during the piece, the clarinettist removes their mouthpiece and barrel, playing only on those parts to emulate a whining cat. Feel free to experiment with cupping the hand around the end of the barrel, or inserting a finger to bend pitch.

 

Percussion:

Written for my radiant and perfectly flamboyant friend Christina Acton, this is a silly ode to the grungey, old cat in your neighbourhood with a torn ear or a missing eye. This cat is, by every definition, ugly, but you know that somewhere amid all that ratty fur, there lies stories of joy that this creature has brought to the lives of the local townsfolk. There is beauty in its aged and weathered body, because you know that if he's letting you pet him he doesn't care how you look.

 

This song is lovingly dedicated to Arnold, a Sackville cat. While his ears may be intact and he still has two eyes, he embodies the simple joy that an old cat can bring into our lives.

"Cat!" was premiered by Christina Acton, Owen Switzer, Noah Batten and Caitlin Strong at Christina's graduating recital, April 10, 2022, in Brunton Auditorium.

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