A Cat Named
by Dan Senn
for Boy's Choir (SATB with divisi)
duration 6-7 minutes

Lillian, the poem, was written in Philo, Illinois in 1986 after reading a book on meditation by Daniel Goleman. The cat named Lillian referred to in this text was real, as presented in the photo above, and acted precisely as described in the poem. “Lilly,” as I called her, had a habit of pawing my studio door and when I'd go to let her in, she’d run off. As I needed quiet to work, I’d close the door and awhile later she’d be back pawing. Eventually I learned the only way to stop her was leave the door ajar so she could push through on her own terms.

Something similar to this happened when I first tried meditating using the Goleman's simplest technique of just counting to four over and over… At first, it was difficult to concentrate and I very nearly gave it up when, while counting, eyes closed, and after a few days of this, I found myself landing unexpectedly in a place of utter calm unlike anything I'd ever experienced before. That was nearly 40 years ago and I've not yet graduated to a higher level of meditation. I count breaths to four, over and over, and Lillian appears.

As with other texts, Lillian was originally spoken while accompanied by the sounds of my sculptural instruments and through mere redundancy, speech rhythms became fixed to where they could be copied, say, to a musical score. Much of A Cat Named Lillian, the score, includes these rhythms.

I have also added other text to the original poem whenever it fancied me. For example, Lillian didn’t come from Canada. Quite sure she was a Chicago girl but indeed was calico.

This work was first sketched around 2010 in Prague and completed in 2022 in Watertown, Wisconsin.

Lillian by Dan Senn

I own a cat named Lillian.

she encounters
a locked door
she strikes it
with her paw
until I come.

When I arrive
she disappears
and there is nothing
I can do
to persuade her
to come through.

I must set
the door ajar
and leave.

Several months ago
after reading
one of those
flower child books
I began some
thinking exercises.

The routine called
for counting breaths
over and over
for fifteen minutes.

Whenever my
mind wandered
I was to
redirect it
to the counting.

I endured
this exercise
for several days
to my surprise

Lillian appeared.
1986 Dan Senn


Dan Senn (Prague-Watertown) is an intermedia artist working in music composition and production, kinetic sound sculpture, experimental and documentary film. He has been a professor of music and art in the United States and Australia and travels internationally as a lecturer, performer and installation artist. He lives in Prague where he directs the Echofluxx festivals, and Watertown, Wisconsin, the USA, with his partner-collaborator, Caroline Senn. Dan's work moves freely between expressive extremes and languages depending upon the aesthetic joust at hand. Dan is cofounder of Roulette Intermedium in New York City, Cascadia Composers of Portland Oregon, and the Echofluxx media festivals in Prague. (read more).