Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Kaddish for Ketzel, the Komposer

 Ketzel the composing cat.
 Sivan Cotel
Say a Kaddish (Jewish prayer for the dead) for the elderly Ketzel, the Komposing Kat, who passed away recently in New York at age of 19, which is a pretty good age for a working feline mewsician. Nonetheless, her loss is still catastrophic.

Some may say simply that she “passed.” I must say that I can’t quite get used to the use of the term “passed” instead of “passed away”. I know what it means to say that someone “passed” from Grade 2 to Grade 3.  Or that someone “passed” their bar admission exams. Or that someone “passed gas”. Or has “passed” something else. I’m old fashioned. I  still believe that when someone or some cat has died, they have, at the very least, “passed away”. They have not just simply “passed”.

Ketzel lived on the upper west side of Manhattan, like many sophisticated New Yorkers, and is survived by her mother, Ms. Cheskis-Cotelm. According to Ketzel's New York Times obituary, Ms. Cheskis-Cotelm’s husband, and presumably Ketzel’s father, died in 2008. He was Morris Moshe Cotel, who retired as chairman of the composition department at the Peabody Conservatory in 2000 and became a rabbi. “He said she was his best student and her fame surpassed his,” Ms. Cheskis-Cotel is reported to have said concerning Ketzel, according to the Times.

The Times obituary explains Ketzel's contribution to the world of avant-garde composition with her post-Webern  "“exquisite atonal miniature", Piece for Piano, Four Paws and how Ketzel received her first royalty cheque for a performance in Rotterdam of her one and only but legendary composition in the amount of $19.72.

Such a mewnificent sum goes a long way for most cats in terms of sustenance, and is doubtless much more in both relative and absolute terms than many  ASCAP, BMI and SOCAN (the Canadian counterpart of ASCAP + BMI) members, who are less successful than Ketzel, may see for long stretches of time.

We don't know if Ketzel ever got to collaborate with Norah, the far younger, more famous and far more commercial but still incredibly talented composer/performer shown here:

Norah, who is the feline purrfessional equivalent of Lady Gaga. no doubt, could have purrformed Ketztel’s magnum opus quite well. Either Ketzel or Norah would clearly qualify as a “Magnificat”.

I don't know whether Norah belongs to ASCAP, BMI, or SOCAN (Canada's version of ASCAP + BMI). She has been viewed tens of millions of times on Youtube, as you can see from the above.

SOCAN is vigorously purrsuing a tariff at Canada's Copyright Board on behalf of Norah and many much less successful and less well-known composers for just such activities on YouTube.  So Norah should join up soon, and cash in on doubtless substantial kopyright royalties in the Canadian tradition in addition to her already thriving merchandising business (beware of counterfeit imitations and parallel imports).  Norah, also being a purrformer of some note, surely should join Re:Sound, Canada's neighbouring rights collective - which is rapidly CATtching up with SOCAN in terms of earnings.

I am pawsitive that my esteemed friend, fellow cat fancier, and the reigning Tom Cat of intellectual property law bloggers, the redoubtable Jeremy Phillips,  and his partner Merpel, master and mistress of the IPKat,  could give these creative and highly successful kats more learned and better documented kudos than I can, But I must try, however impurrfectly, to give them some measure of feline fame in the meantime.

So, let us paws at this time to remember Ketzel, the Komposing Kat, whose royalties may eclipse those of many other less successful members of various collectives. Sadly, she is probably now decomposing. 

However, may she not suffer the ravages of those savages who advocate for large and liberal notions of fur dealing and fur use. For the respect of copyright, may  her estate always be asked for all purrmissons, whether required or not. May her royalties live on for at least another 70 years, or nine lives, whichever is longer. And maybe even, as the late Jack Valenti might have said, “furrever less a day.”


PS - The IPKat's tribute to Ketztel replete with links to recent IP Monkey business can be found here. 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you all for your lovely supportive comments and some very strong punny comments. Yes, Ketzel is wearing her tuxedo and that's what I said when I asked if I could bring her to take her bows at the performance of her piece at the Museum of the City of New York in a "concert by New York composers." And, yes, there were many puns made in the various articles written about her 12 years ago -- one referred to her "compawsition;" one called it "Paws and Effect;" and the chapter in the book was entitled "The Tail End." One of the 3 cds that featured Ketzel's piece was called "Purrfectly Classical."

    The last piece composer/pianist/Rabbi Cotel wrote before his untimely death was a set of symphonic variations on Ketzel's jewel of a piece. It is called "Mews' Muse," is, as yet, unperformed, and we are seeking the most appropriate venue to feature it.

    Thanks to all, Aliya Cheskis-Cotel/Rabbi Cotel's widow; Ketzel's proud owner; Director/Kolot

    N.B. Maestro-Rabbi Cotel actually applied for Ketzel to be a member of ASCAP!