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Back in the days when people and humour were simpler, various wags and wits proposed musical instruments based on animals such as pigs or cats. The theory was that you would select cats (or pigs) based on the pitch of their calls, and arrange for mallets to strike their tails, under the control of a piano-like keyboard. My, how we laughed.

Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to tune a cat or a pig reliably*. They are sensitive to humidity, hunger and many other parameters. Moreovermore, the width of such animals would make a full 88-note keyboard unwieldly.


If you dismantle a flying insect, you'll discover that its wingbeats are controlled by a resonant system consisting of a springy ligament and a flight muscle. The system only works at (or very close to) its resonant frequency, which is why most flies, wasps, bees and beetles produce a fairly constant note when airborne. The pitch changes a bit with temperature, and can be varied a little for banking and pitching, but not by much.

Clearly, then, the opportunity exists to create a fliegenspiele. Some research will be needed to find a collection of insects which, between them, can span the full audio spectrum. However, individual Peltier modules in each insect-containing chamber will allow fine tuning.

All that is then needed is some means of actuating each insect in response to the relevant key. The word "laser" springs to mind at this point.

From the deep bass of the male cockchafer (no, stop it!), to the crystalline warble of the mosquito - a full multioctave experience awaits.

[*violinists are a prime example of this problem, and they are only using part of the cat.]

MaxwellBuchanan, Jun 02 2014

Musical Mice https://www.youtube...watch?v=_OXfAPPckQU
Classic Python (the comedy group, not the programming language). [DrBob, Jun 05 2014]

Dunny Beetles https://www.youtube...watch?v=9hrSL5UgjGo
The Fast Show's version of this idea [oneoffdave, Jun 06 2014]


       I would have thought that insects from the cricket/grasshopper spectrum have a sufficient range of sizes/frequencies to make a musical instrument possible. Crickets belong to the Gryllidae family so this would be known as a Gryllidonium.
hippo, Jun 03 2014

       Excellent! [+]
Spacecoyote, Jun 03 2014

       What a very well written idea, (even the "cockchafer" was not too risque), and I love the visual of a laser pointing to each insect, telling them to "hit it".
blissmiss, Jun 03 2014

       Good thing he didn't say pricklouse....damn, damn, damn
not_morrison_rm, Jun 03 2014

       Thank you, [bliss].   

       [nrm] - I also left out Gledhill's Breastfly.
MaxwellBuchanan, Jun 03 2014

       I like it, you can try a MIDI trigger version prior to work with the acoustical arrange. Even more, the audio samples taken from insects in their habitat will result in an interpretation far more natural than the laser-compelling device [+]
piluso, Jun 03 2014

       // violinists ... are only using part of the cat. //   

       Nonetheless, they are richly deserving of praise and adulation, particularly as the essential precondition for their noble art requires a dead cat, or at last one that has had its digestive organs surgically excised, which is nearly as good in terms of life-limiting condtions.
8th of 7, Jun 03 2014

       Speaking of deep bass cockchafers; doesn't old Beelzybub play one of these?   

       //are only using part of the cat.   

       It's worse than you think, they also presumably (in the old days) used parts of fish or horse for glue and innumerable bits of dead trees..ewww!
not_morrison_rm, Jun 03 2014

       Rabbits, [nmrm], and most would be horrified by your suggestions of //in the old days//.
pocmloc, Jun 04 2014

       I suspect the substantial and unpredictable latency inherent to any attempt to force a living creature to do your bidding on command would make this very difficult to play well, or even with a consistent mediocrity. You could do it with a sampler, of course, but that would be cheating.   

       That said, I wonder if there are any insects whose droning changes pitch dependent on ambient conditions (temperature and such). You could use that to bend certain notes.
ytk, Jun 05 2014

       Crickets would do, for part of the range.
Spacecoyote, Jun 05 2014

       //I suspect the substantial and unpredictable latency inherent to any attempt to force a living creature to do your bidding on command//   

       The hand is quicker than the eye is,
But not as nimble as the fly is.
MaxwellBuchanan, Jun 05 2014

       // the substantial and unpredictable latency inherent to any attempt to force a living creature to do your bidding on command //   

       I see you've worked with drummers before, [ytk]
BunsenHoneydew, Jun 06 2014

       Aha! The unidexter awakes!
DrBob, Jun 06 2014


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