They say music is a universal language, and it turns out that is even true for animals. At least, it seems so in the experience of Paul Barton, a concert pianist and artist who has been playing the piano to rescue elephants in Thailand since 2011.
He performed a series of classical compositions for the animals, who stand by listening intently, seemingly mesmerized by the pieces of composers such as Beethoven, Schumann and Grieg.
His most recent audience was Mongkol, an old baby elephant rescued from captivity carrying trees for a logging company. “Every now and then, Mongkol would stop by the piano while walking along the river,” explains Barton of his interactions with the gentle creature. “If we notice he’s waiting, I’ll come over and play him some slow classical music.”
Over the years, Barton has played for quite a few friendly teams and has deep relationships with many of them. “If you play classical music for an elephant. . . This response is invaluable,” said the pianist. “There is a special bond between you and the elephant.
You are communicating with them in another language. That language is neither ours nor theirs. There’s something so wonderful about a piece of music by Beethoven connecting me to that elephant, and that feeling is otherworldly.”
Most of the elephants that Barton plays were rescued from the logging industry, which was banned in Thailand in 1989. Many have been blinded or injured as a result of their hard work. They now reside in Elephant World, a sanctuary on the River Kwai in Kanchanaburi, Thailand, where they are cared for and can live peacefully.
Scroll down to see Barton perform his most recent concerts for his animal friend Mongkol.