N.B. Elephants were not harmed during the recording of this video or the training process. This blog does not support any kind of animal abuse.

What happens when you place large percussion instruments in front of an elephant herd? An elephant orchestra, of course!

Elephant conservationist and Thai Elephant Orchestra conductor Richard Lair has worked with as many as 16 elephants at a time to build musical awareness within their herd. Click here to watch a performance of the Thai Elephant Orchestra. Improvisation is at the heart of their performance. If you watch/listen carefully you will see that they are thinking musically, in terms of rhythm, timing and structure - and they are also following command!

This heavyweight orchestra has already released three CDs through Mulatta Records, their most recent - Water Music (2011). They’ve got much more of an indie-vibe than most hipster bands - so give them a spin!


How does it work? A human conductor cues the elephants when to enter and when to stop. The musical decisions between these cues are up to each individual elephant. The elephants do not begin to play spontaneously, unless one of their friends is already playing. Often, the elephant will continue long after the conductor has asked them to stop.