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Thai Elephant Orchestra

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BoingBoing links to the website of the allegedly musical Thai Elephant Orchestra and says, “The elephants not only play with the instruments, they play together on them, jamming in what is clearly recognizable as music.”

I’m not convinced. That the sounds are musical to our ears may say more about us than about the elephants. Given the inherent musicality of the lovely Thai gongs, etc., provided to the elephants, I’d have expected these instruments to sound just as pretty and just as much like “real” music whether set up as wind chimes or robotically played using a random number generator.

Of course, if we accept John Cage‘s assertion that noise can be music, the question is not whether elephants can play music but whether elephants can play music that shows signs of (non-random) musical thought. Which suggests a sort of musical Turing test, in which respondents are asked whether an audio track produced by elephants (or for that matter musical robots with composition algorithms) sounds “more musical” than a control track of the same noises sequenced randomly. Has anyone ever tried this?

Meanwhile, hear for yourself.

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About Prentiss Riddle

  • Eric Olsen

    Heavy music, eh P?