Last summer, we were impressed by a man who took his saxophone out to the edge of a pasture and played music for a rapt audience of cows. In retrospect, having now seen a guy whose YouTube channel is filled with him entertaining elephants on piano, we aren’t quite as blown away. Paul Barton, an English artist and musician living in Thailand, makes the cow entertainer look like a chump. He has set his sights higher, discovering an audience that could very easily crush him by accident if he misses a note.
To get a sense of Barton’s work, check out his most recent video. In it, he sits down at a piano at the edge of a river where Chaichana, “a powerful male elephant” waits to hear some music. Barton obliges, despite the fact that Chaichana is initially restless, swaying back and forth and swinging a trunk around that’s roughly the size of an adult human.
Soon after Barton begins to play, Chaichana relaxes completely. Soothed by the music, he lies down in the mud, curls up his trunk, and soaks in a couple of pieces by his favorite composer, Edvard Grieg.
There are many, many more where this came from. Other videos show Barton performing for a mother and baby elephant …
.. and providing breakfast music for a blind elephant eating the food given to her by her caretakers at Elephants World, the Thai rescue where Barton’s videos are filmed.
There’s a huge array of these clips, including stuff like Barton just hammering out some lower register tremolo for two elephants. Considering the trumpets of delight one of them responds with, this tune seems to be a pretty hot jam.
A final highlight is Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” played at night for Mongkol, “a 61-year-old former logging elephant” that lost his right eye, a tusk, and has been “deformed through hard labor,” but was rescued and is now able to “spend the rest of his days relaxing peacefully in freedom by the River Kwai.”
To hear more about Barton’s work check out a behind the scenes video where he explains how the channel began and his relationship with the elephants. Otherwise, browse the YouTube page for lots of other material, which somehow doesn’t include the Peanuts theme song because, we must assume, that would just be insulting.