Igor Stravinsky's Cat's Cradle Songs (1915 - 16) comprise settings of four traditional Russian texts for alto voice and three clarinets. (Stravinsky also made a version for voice and piano.) Stravinsky scholar Eric White notes that the four songs -- "The Tomcat," "The Tomcat on the Stove," "Bye-bye," and "O Tomcat, Tomcat" -- clearly belong to the era of Pribaoutki (1914), Stravinsky's collection of nonsense songs composed in the Russian folk idiom. The Cat's Cradle Songs however, possess a terseness that is somewhat foreign to the idiom, perhaps foreshadowing the brevity and austerity of Stravinsky's soon-to-emerge Neoclassical style.
The four songs explore the full range and expressive capabilities of the clarinets. With their sinuous melodic twists and turns, the songs are, in White' s words, "a most appropriate commentary on a domestic corner of the animal world."