Tales from the Tabloids: Playing Piano for Retired Blind Elephants

 

A British fellow named Paul Barton lives in Thailand where his wife runs an animal sanctuary, Elephants World, for “old, sick, abused, retired or rescued elephants.” As their website says, “Most of our elephants have lived very hard lives and they come here to retire in peace.” Some years ago he began playing his piano to the elephants, some of whom were in chronic pain or blind or both.

Here’s Paul with Romsai, the nearly blind old bull elephant, playing Beethoven:

(I originally saw this story in the NY Post Sunday morning.)

There are 15 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    What a beautiful video, Mama Toad–he was dancing to the music! We visited a sanctuary in Thailand, but I don’t know if it was this one. It was a great experience. These are extraordinary animals, smart and quirky. It’s wonderful that they have a place to “retire.” 

    • #1
  2. Doctor Robert Member
    Doctor Robert
    @DoctorRobert

    So much to say…

    ”Music hath charms to soothe the heart of the savage beast”.

    This is why all kids should have music lessons, you never know when they will prove useful.

    Are those ivory keys?  Such irony.  Perhaps Romsai recognizes a childhood friend.

    My Dad told the story that when word of the Hindenburg disaster came to the family home in 1937, his 9 year old sister Virginia was playing the piano, learning this piece.  His Dad, my grandfather and a very fine pianist, took her place and played the movement through.  My Dad ever after associated this Sonata with the disaster and I once saw him tear up at hearing it in a recital.   So I played it at my Grandfather’s memorial service in January 1979.  This made a deep impression.

    Is that piano  left out in the elements, or is it moved into place?   Even an upright is hard to move.  Perhaps the elephants help.

    Someone needs to send this link to Jay Nordlinger, who will no doubt have other trenchant observations that I have missed.  I dislike his recent politics, but he is a master of understanding art music in modern culture.

    And finally, I have always found A-flat, the key of this movement, to be a restful, soothing key.  It’s an awkward key for string instruments so orchestral music is not often thus keyed.  It would be nice to have more orchestral music in A-flat.

    • #2
  3. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Are you sure he isn’t playing The Elephant’s Waltz?

    • #3
  4. Doctor Robert Member
    Doctor Robert
    @DoctorRobert

    Stad (View Comment):

    Are you sure he isn’t playing The Elephant’s Waltz?

    Music for elephants includes: Baby Elephant Walk

    Elephant’s Tango

    Barnum and Bailey’s Favorite

    and my favorite, Stravinsky’s Circus Polka, written for B&B.  Stravinsky agreed to the commission “only if they are very young elephants”.

    • #4
  5. PHCheese Inactive
    PHCheese
    @PHCheese

    I love elephants. These African elephants were painted by neighbor and given to me. They hang in our den.

    • #5
  6. She Member
    She
    @She

    Simply lovely.  And incredibly relaxing.  Have put the link on my desktop so I have it to watch the next time something fussles my boogie.  Thanks for this post.

    • #6
  7. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    Doctor Robert (View Comment):
    Are those ivory keys? Such irony.

    No. He makes a point in several of his videos that the keys are not ivory.

    • #7
  8. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    Here’s another lovely one, a little Debussy:

    • #8
  9. Jules PA Inactive
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    I imagine that those vibrations from the piano are picked up not only through the ears, but also through vibrations in the ground. I found it interesting in the first video that the elephant hovered close to the piano, with his trunk and mouth near the lid, and that he put his trunk over the piano, and enveloped the piano.

    Music is a very sensory experience.

    You’ll notice it is acoustic, not recorded music. :)

    here is another delight:

     

    • #9
  10. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    Here’s Armen Ksajikian playing for bears at the Fortress of the Bears bear sanctuary in Sitka Alaska. 

    …with my commentary. 

    • #10
  11. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    Apparently Armen Ksajikian also played for the raptors at Sitka.

     

    • #11
  12. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    CB Toder aka Mama Toad (View Comment):

    Apparently Armen Ksajikian also played for the raptors at Sitka.

    He is very well known in the Sitka Wildlife Community. He is also with the California Phil. 

    A person could do worse than follow him on Facebook. 

    • #12
  13. Ontheleftcoast Member
    Ontheleftcoast
    @Ontheleftcoast

    Jules PA (View Comment):

    I imagine that those vibrations from the piano are picked up not only through the ears, but also through vibrations in the ground. I found it interesting in the first video that the elephant hovered close to the piano, with his trunk and mouth near the lid, and that he put his trunk over the piano, and enveloped the piano.

    Music is a very sensory experience.

    You’ll notice it is acoustic, not recorded music. :)

    here is another delight:

    I was thinking the same thing. The elephant appeared to be moving rhythmically but to a different drummer, so to speak; elephants are sensitive to frequencies below the human audible spectrum. It would be very interesting to see a representation of the low frequency part of the piano’s output displayed in real time as the elephant moves.

    • #13
  14. Jules PA Inactive
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    Ontheleftcoast (View Comment):

    Jules PA (View Comment):

    I imagine that those vibrations from the piano are picked up not only through the ears, but also through vibrations in the ground. I found it interesting in the first video that the elephant hovered close to the piano, with his trunk and mouth near the lid, and that he put his trunk over the piano, and enveloped the piano.

    Music is a very sensory experience.

    You’ll notice it is acoustic, not recorded music. :)

    here is another delight:

    I was thinking the same thing. The elephant appeared to be moving rhythmically but to a different drummer, so to speak; elephants are sensitive to frequencies below the human audible spectrum. It would be very interesting to see a representation of the low frequency part of the piano’s output displayed in real time as the elephant moves.

    I even wonder if the hairs on their body “hear” through the skin. 

    Sound is vibration. So feeling vibration, is that a kind of hearing?

    • #14
  15. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    Jules PA (View Comment):
    So feeling vibration, is that a kind of hearing?

    Especially with all those hairs on their ears being able to vibrate, I’d think.

    Here’s some info on elephant hearing. It doesn’t mention the hairs, though.

    • #15
Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.

Comments are closed because this post is more than six months old. Please write a new post if you would like to continue this conversation.