Thai Elephant Orchestra
"This is, I believe, the first CD ever recorded of instrumental music featuring non-human players. It's a project of the Thai Elephant Conservation Center, a government facility in which domestic elephants are making the transition from forest workers to interspecies ambassadors. In keeping with the center's exploration of human-elephant interaction, a set of instruments were designed with the elephants' particular dexterity and strength in mind. The resulting music is uniquely fascinating.
"The overall sound is that of a spacy gamelon orchestra, but as producer Lair's lively notes make clear, the elephant players were not just banging randomly. There is a spaciousness that immediately reflects awareness of the group interplay, and many specific examples of discrete care and discovery on the part of the elephants. Luuk Kob, the "Buddy Rich of elephant percussionists", redeemed a failed slit drum by discovering its one sweet spot and learning to strike it at the precise angle that would yield an optimum sound. Meanwhile, harmonicas became "the first elephant music fad", with the animals wandering the forest playing through the tips of their trunks.
"The disc includes 12 pieces played by the Elephant Orchestra (with humans cueing the start and stop on each instrument, but the elephants choosing all the notes and rhythms), along with six tracks involving more human collaboration and a burst of pure elephant vocalization. All in all, a compelling testimony to the creative impulse in our mammalian brethren.