Diablog: The Cat Who Loved Music

People who hang out on the other Primedia sites are going to think we have an anti-canine bias, between you and Phillips and Mejias. Having said that, I miss Chi-chan.

I miss him too. It's hard to believe he's gone.

But why are we running that picture at the bottom? It's not very flattering. He was much handsomer than that.

As the top picture demonstrates, I hope. It's hard to get a good shot of a black cat in a dark apartment, especially when he's always closing his eyes in anticipation of the flash. But the bottom one is the only one we have of Chi-chan listening to music. In this shot, two days before his death at the age of 10, he's listening to Tony Levin play the Chapman Stick through a Thiel SS1 subwoofer. Chi-chan was often drawn to the sub, but only when something gentle and melodic was coming out of it. Look, he's wrapped his tail around it to feel it better, the way he used to wrap it around my ankle in bed.

Chi-chan always took a lively interest in your work. Unlike me.

Yes, he sniffed every carton that came in. I guess each one was an epic of smells that only a cat could access—the delivery truck, the warehouse full of rats. But what I envied was not his sense of smell but his sense of hearing.

Why? Granted, your ears aren't as cute, but you can hear.

Yes, but not like a cat. A cat hears up to 65,000 Hertz.

65,000 hurts?

65,000 cycles per second, if you insist. That's not as much as a mouse hears, but more than a dog, and lots more than a human. The study linked below pegs humans at 23,000Hz but I suspect for most folks it's something in the teens. And under 10,000Hz for many older people.

Are we going to start missing high notes when we get older?

Well, the highest note of the piccolo is under 5000Hz. We hear overtones going out well beyond that, but music is mostly midrange, which is why I take such pains to describe midrange when I write a review. Bass solidifies the beat, of course, while the high-frequency stuff helps fill out the texture and harmonic architecture. In that respect I often wondered what Chi-chan could hear with those peaked ears that I couldn't.

Chi-chan was a cat and a half. Tiny feet, big tummy, the look of perpetual outrage on that shiny black face. Remember when he used to hiss at us? Even now, when we're watching a DVD, every time some monster bares its fangs to the camera we go "CHI-CHAN!"

Well, we only got him when he was eight. He probably thought he'd been catnapped. How was he to know his mommy gave him up because she was dying? Once we got to know each other, he got to enjoy his daily brushing, meowed for attention, purred to show his appreciation, and gave me a hero's welcome every time I came through the door. He asked to be brushed five minutes before he died. That was his way of saying goodbye. Now every dark shape on the floor reminds me of him. When a new carton comes in, I worry about crushing him with it as I roll it across the floor. No one purrs me to sleep now. That's one sound I'll miss.

Mark Fleischmann is the author of the annually updated book Practical Home Theater. For links to the latest edition, visit www.quietriverpress.com.

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