Video: Violinist Inspires Elephants to Dance to Bach

Sunday, August 24, 2014 - 10:00 PM

Violinist Eleanor Bartsch, a master's student at the University of Wisconsin Madison, performed a bit of Bach on Saturday night for an unlikely audience: Kelly and Viola, elephants who live together at the Circus World Museum in Baraboo, Wisconsin.

Bartsch performs with the Madison Symphony Orchestra and Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, among other ensembles, and was in Baraboo for a concert. The museum hosts concerts along with providing a home to the animals.

 

As anyone who has seen the Thai Elephant Orchestra may attest, elephants seem to have an affinity for music. In the mid-19th century, Barnum & Bailey circuses fielded "elephant bands." A century later, German evolutionary biologist Bernard Rensch found that elephants can distinguish 12 tones and could remember simple melodies even when played on different instruments or at different pitches. Wild stuff.

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Comments [13]

SARAH from PHILLY

JUST READ THE OTHER COMMENTS. CONCERNING THE ELEPHANTS BEING ABUSED THE USDA LOOKED INTO IT IN 2013 BUT I CAN FIND NO OTHER ARTICLES ABOUT IT. AS FOR PETA MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE WITH THEM MAKES ME WONDER IF THEY AREN'T USING ANIMAL CRUELTY TO FURTHER SOME TWISTED AGENDA. I REPORTED TO THEM ABOUT SOME FERAL PIGEONS I CARE FOR THAT WERE SAVAGELY MUTILATED BY A NEIGHBOR. THEIR RESPONSE WAS THAT IT IS MY FAULT, THAT WHAT I DID WAS ILLEGAL AND THAT I WAS THE REASON THERE WERE TOO MANY PIGEONS TO FEED. WELL FIRST OF ALL I HAVE THE CITY ORDINANCE AND IT IS NOT ILLEGAL. I NOT ONLY FEED MY FLOCK BUT IF TEND TO THE INDIVIDUALS WHEN THEY ARE SICK OR ILL. AND FOR 20 YEARS THE FLOCK SIZE HAS REMAINED CONSTANT. PETA NEVER RESPONDED TO THAT!!! IF YOU SEARCH FOR COMPLAINTS ABOUT PETA YOU'LL FIND THAT MY EXPERIENCE IS NOT UNUSUAL.

THAT WASN'T THE NEUROTIC SWAYING ANIMALS LIVING IN A SMALL CAGE ACT OUT. THEY WERE MOVING WITH THE RYTHM OF THE MUSIC AND STOPPED WHEN THE MUSIC STOPPED.

I MUST SAY I WAS TAKEN ABACK BY THE CYNICISM OF SO MANY OF THE RESPONDENTS. SEEMS THAT NETWORK NEWS AND IN PARTICULAR PBS HAS DONE ITS JOB SO WELL THAT NO ONE CAN ENJOY A NATURAL EVENT WITHOUT FAULT FINDING. PEOPLE NEED TO STOP FAULT FINDING AND START SOLUTION FINDING. IT TAKES ABSOLUTELY NO EFFORT TO COMPLAIN--NOT EVEN MENTAL EFFORT.

I REALLY ENJOYED WATCHING THOSE ELEPHANTS ENJOY THEMSELVES. HOPEFULLY MORE MUSICIANS WILL FOLLOW ELANOR'S EXAMPLE. SHE IS A GREAT FRIEND!

Sep. 03 2014 03:02 AM
SARAH from PHILLY

THIS CHOIR OF WOMEN SINGING ELEPHANTS WAS YOU TUBE'D TO ME BY SAVE THE ELEPHANTS

http://youtu.be/NITEAuWnYSc

I LIKE THE ELEPHANT THAT IS STANDING REALLY CLOSE--WANTS THE BEST SEAT IN THE HOUSE!

I WONDER IF IN WISCONSIN IF THEY PIPE IN MUSIC TO THE ELEPHANTS WHO DID APPEAR TO BE REALLY ENJOYING THE MUSIC. I KNOW MY FAVORITE PET PIGEON WOULD FLY OVER TO LISTEN TO THE BRADENBERG CONCERTO AND SIT ENTHRALLED BEFORE THE SPEAKER. I WORE OUT 3 TAPES AND QUIET FRANKLY GOT SICK OF IT BUT HE NEVER DID.

Sep. 03 2014 02:42 AM
Abby Colodner

Also, Circus World uses an elephant handler who's been documented abusing animals: https://secure.peta.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=5372 So no, not an innocent video.

Aug. 27 2014 01:59 PM
Abby Colodner

These bobbing and swinging motions look like "stereotypic" behaviors animals do in captivity. They're abnormal -- animals don't do them in the wild -- and are believed to be reactions to psychological stress and boredom. Birds may obsessively pluck out their feathers, big cats may pace back and forth, elephants may swing their heads.

It doesn't negate the possibility that elephants in general also enjoy music, but their movements resemble expressions of stress, and what many people believe can be animal psychosis in captivity.

Aug. 27 2014 01:53 PM
Martha Vallon from Madison, WI

Please correct: Eleanor Bartsch was warming up for a concert with the WISCONSIN CHAMBER ORCHESTRA, and the music she is playing for the elephants is from the Bach Double Violin Concerto. I played in this concert.

Aug. 27 2014 10:35 AM
Sue Bowman

I was at that concert - it was the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra performing at Circus World Museum. Awesome concert and great video!

Aug. 27 2014 09:46 AM
Neville

**PLEASE CORRECT: it was the WISCONSIN CHAMBER ORCHESTRA, not the Madison Symphony Orchestra

Aug. 26 2014 05:18 PM
Jonathan Jurado

Incredible, the elefants are great and bach two. thks for sharing

Aug. 25 2014 04:40 PM
C.So from NYC

That's the Double Concerto, not a solo partita as indicated in the caption - no?

Aug. 25 2014 02:52 PM
Myriam Thelemaque from West Milford, NJ

Two of my favorite subjects; animals and classical music. Thanks WQXR for having this wonderful video, where
the audience was so enthrall with the music and so attentive , that neither one sneezed or cough during the concert. Bravo for the performer !!!!

Aug. 25 2014 02:13 PM
concetta nardone from Nassau

Yes Mr. Furrer, very ironic.

Aug. 25 2014 01:36 PM
David from Flushing

Elephants communicate at infrasonic frequencies and would more likely appreciate the lowest notes of an organ to a violin.

Aug. 25 2014 11:47 AM
Barry Owen Furrer

Would it not be an ironic twist to the story if Ms. Bartsch's bow had illegally harvested ivory?

Aug. 25 2014 09:56 AM

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