The Life of a Musician's Cat
...is an arduous one. Even more so
for a brain-damaged cat savant. At first it seemed Floppy just didn't
like music. He learned quickly to associate the cello case with the
cello inside and the subsequent cello sights and sounds. The zip and
click of that case opening sent him scurrying, in his limited, drunk,
cartoon-dinosaur way, to the far end of the hallway where he suffered
the hard floor, the cold draft and the considerable New York City apartment
building noise, to avoid the music.
Floppy spent his formative years outside and, as a result, he's a cautious
cat. In his progression from virtual 24-hour-under-the-bed-hiding, to
limited contact, to rationed displays of affection in exchange for food
and petting, his disdain for the cello seemed unchanged. He established
a variety of aural safe havens, none suggesting any greater acceptance
of the cello as entertainment.
To a musician, to any performer, the attention of the audience is nourishment
and sustained willful disinterest or contempt is, well, it's like a
diet of Swiss bread: hard to chew, hard to swallow and tasteless. So
it was with Sibylle and Floppy. Each a captive of the other there could
be neither retreat nor surrender. What took place was, astonishingly,
Difficulty tests musicians. Every performance contains mistakes; a lesser
player watches helplessly as her performance is sucked into the black
hole of an error. A great player goes forward, embracing failure as
opportunity, gathering strength, proceeding with courage. With no dream
of "success", Sibylle practiced harder, her goal, improvement.
The result: subtle gains that even her good ears failed to register.
She strove against the unmoving mountain of disinterest, determined
only to go on.
But a finer set of ears was listening. Slowly, with glacial progress
measured in inches over weeks, Floppy evaluated, not exactly enjoying,
but willing to acknowledge advances, however slight, with proximity.
This is where we stand. On the best days he'll stay in the room, watching
his beloved pigeons for diversion, offering subtle guidance with his
sublime voice and cocking one sharp ear back; listening with cautious
hope, wise judgment, and great tolerance.
Oddly, he never seems to mind the saxophone.