Like many musically-minded artists, professional pianist Paul Barton enjoys sharing his talent with the world. Unlike most musicians, however, Barton’s performances are not limited to human audiences; in fact, some of his biggest fans aren’t people, but pachyderms.
Since moving to Thailand 20 years ago, Barton has found a way to pair a passion for animals with his self-taught piano practice. Through Elephants World, a “self-supporting Environmental Conservation Organization that cares for domestic elephants,” Barton regularly treats old, abused, and even blind rescues to the works of Beethoven, Bach, Chopin, and other classical composers.
Barton notes that this tradition is hugely beneficial to the vulnerable elephants’ well-being, as it has the amazing ability to calm and comfort them. “If you play classical music to an elephant, something soft and beautiful, something that human beings have been listening to for hundreds of years, something that is timeless—and you play that to an elephant that is blind and they’ve never heard music before—the reaction is priceless,” he tells YourStory. “There is a special bond between you and the elephant. You are communicating with them in a different language.”
In addition to soothing the animals, Barton’s music also poignantly serves as a sort of apology to elephants. “The elephant has worked for humans for too long,” he says. “It was used in wars, it was used to deforest its own home. What is the little thing I can do as a human to say sorry, for my species for what we have done to them? I’ll carry this heavy thing myself and play some music for the elephant while it is having some breakfast.”
To watch Barton’s inspiring performances, check out his Piano for Elephants playlist on YouTube.