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Meet the Man Who Trains Thailand’s Elephant Orchestra

Though the band is broken up, the sounds of the elephants will never grow old

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Columbia University’s David Sulzer is a neuroscientist who studies the inner workings of the brain and who also works with the pachyderms of the Thai Elephant Orchestra, recording and releasing three full albums of elephant-made music. “The elephants are given a cue to start and then they improvise,” said the Economist back in 2001. “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.”

PBS NOVA has profiled Sulzer for the Secret Lives of ScientistsThe New York radio station WNYC interviewed Sulzer a few years ago about what he thinks elephants might be thinking, and feeling, when they make their music.

The Thai Elephant Orchestra’s 2011 album Water Music, said Suzler to WNYC, was to be their last.

h/t Princess Ojiaku

More from Smithsonian.com:

Saving Mali’s Migratory Elephants

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About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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