a little east of reality

Monday, May 09, 2005

elephants are so cool!!

I can't believe it! After I answered the questions for Drip, I was looking around in Google trying to see if I could find some kind of relevent clip art to go with my post. Suddenly I come across this:

I have since discovered that an elephant band in Thailand not only plays harmonicas but lots of other instruments, too, and has in fact released two albums.

Here's a quote from a New York Times article:

The Thai Elephant Orchestra...members play sturdier versions of traditional Thai instruments - slit drums, a gong hammered from a sawmill blade, a diddly-bow bass and xylophone-like renats - and a thundersheet and harmonicas.

Mr. Sulzer said he and Mr. Lair merely showed the elephants how to make the sounds, cued them to start and stop, and let them play as they wished. After five practice sessions, they started recording. Mr. Sulzer admits he was skeptical at first. "I thought we would just train elephants to hit something, and I would tape that and have to paste it together with other things." Instead, he recorded the performances intact, without overdubbing, in a teak grove, pausing only when outside noises intruded.

The players improvise distinct meters and melodic lines, and vary and repeat them. The results, at once meditative and deliberate, delicate and insistently thrumming, strike some Western listeners as haunting, others as monotonous.

But this quote from an Economist article is my favourite:

The elephants are given a cue to start and then they improvise. They clearly have a strong sense of rhythm. They flap their ears to the beat, swish their tails and generally rock back and forth. Some add to the melody with their own trumpeting.

I have long wanted to visit the Thai Elephant Conservation Center just to see the elephants and support their rehabilitation work for sick or abused (beaten, overworked) elephants, but now I want to go to Thailand to see elephants bopping to the beat. I love the fact that this is not merely something they’ve been trained to do, but something they apparently like doing and can improvise. I wonder if they’re up for impromptu jams…