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Meet the Russian cat setting the world of improvised music alight

A bassist and a cat
(Image credit: Jeffin Rodegheri/Марсель Гильманов)

Think music making is the preserve of us humans? Think again. 

Back in 2002, the Thai Elephant Orchestra released their first album. An ensemble with an ever-changing membership of up to 14 elephants based in northern Thailand's Lampang province, they made music by banging on specially designed instruments with their trunks, and have since gone on to release released two more well-received CDs, Elephonic Rhapsody and Water Music

That's not all: Levy Lorenzo, an engineer at Cornell University, devised what he called the "Intelligent MIDI Sequencing with Hamster Control project", which generated musical sounds based on the movements of half a dozen captive hamsters, while at the Institute of Media Studies in Linz, Austria, Reinhard Gupfinger produced a "disc jockey" instrument based on a foraging wheel operated entirely by parrots.

The latest animal to attempt to break the cycle of human dominance is Barney, a ginger cat based in Moscow, Russia, whose piano improvisations have taken video sharing platform TikTok by storm. Barney's musical adventures, in which he tentatively performs somewhat forlorn solo pieces, have been noticed by his fellow musicians, who are now lining up to accompany the talented moggy.     

First up was TikTik user akizguitar, who performed a rather sombre acoustic piece with Barney late last year. "I'm still working on my phrasing with the maestro cat," he reported. 

The web being what it is, someone then added a vocal, giving the song a smokey, late night jazz feel, with Barney a feline Oscar Peterson. 

More recently, Jeffin Rodegheri, bassist with Brazilian singer Ricky Vallen, took up the challenge, saying "Tonight I saw a video of Barney playing his piano alone, and decided to accompany him on his theme." 

The end result? A mournful but definitely musical piece that no one would question if it were labelled post-rock and released on the Thrill Jockey label. 

You can watch all three videos below, and we look forward to seeing more from Barney. A deal with Nuclear Blast is apparently in the offing. 

@akizguitar

##duet with @mars.gilmanov still working on my phrasing with maestro cat. ##fy ##fyp ##cat ##guitar

♬ оригинальный звук - Марсель Гильманов
@egglemonade

duet @akizguitar @mars.gilmanov I wrote some lyrics :) ##duet ##fyp ##music ##help

♬ оригинальный звук - Марсель Гильманов
Fraser Lewry

Online Editor of Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 35 years in music industry, online for 22. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović. Likes cats.