Latest new-music group: Thai Elephant Orchestra

Posted on: August 5, 2013

An episode of Saturday’s (8/3) “All Things Considered” radio program at NPR covers the Thai Elephant Orchestra. “At a conservation center in Thailand, made for former work animals with nowhere to go, a group of elephants has been assembled and trained to play enormous percussion instruments, holding mallets in their trunks and sometimes trumpeting along. David Sulzer—known in the music world as Dave Soldier—is a neuroscientist at Columbia University, a composer and the co-founder of the orchestra. ‘Elephants like to listen to music,’ Sulzer tells NPR’s Jacki Lyden. ‘So what we came up with was, well, maybe if we made ergonomic instruments that would be easy for elephants to play—for instance, marimbas and drums that are giant—perhaps they would play music.… The Thai Elephant Orchestra has produced three albums. Sulzer says that these days, when the elephants’ musicality is questioned, he has an answer ready. ‘What you do is you play some of the music to your friends, to an audience,’ Sulzer says. ‘We did this once to a professional music critic from The New York Times, who … eventually said, “I bet it’s a new music group from Asia.” I said, “You got it.” ’ ”

Posted August 5, 2013