80-year-old elephant-elephant stories heal through music played by a pianist

There are all sorts of ways to help animals in need. You can give them food, shelter, water, and affection. But one man has taken it to the next level… by giving them music.

Paul Barton is a classical pianist who loves the sound of music from Bach and other great classical composers.

But now, he’s performing for sick, blind elephants at an elephant sanctuary in Thailand.

Knowing the healing effects that music can have for people, Barton decided to journey to Elephants World. He asked the staff if he could bring a piano and perform for the elephants to see how they reacted and if the music brought them any comfort.

The staff said Barton was welcome to come.

However, no one — including the pianist — was sure how the elephants were going to react.

“We liked the sound of the place being a retirement center for old, injured, and handicapped former logging and trekking elephants,” Barton said. “So, we paid them a visit. I wondered if these old rescue elephants might like to listen to some slow classical music.”


The first elephant to show a remarkable reaction to Barton’s playing was a blind, ailing male.

He was in the midst of eating one morning when he suddenly stopped at the sound of the music.

“[He] was often in pain, and I like to think maybe the soothing music gave him some comfort in the darkness,” said Barton.

The pianist has developed an affection for many of the members of his audience.

Unfortunately, that sometimes means grieving for the ones who pass away. That includes the first elephant he played for, who died due to an infection. Barton says that he was heartbroken upon learning of the animal’s death.

Elephants World is a home for sick and elderly elephants, some of whom are as old as 80 or more.

Some are blind and may feel isolated from the world. However, Barton hopes his playing helps them feel connected to the rest of the world once again, in one way or another.

Barton posts his performances, elephants included, on YouTube, where they garner hundreds of thousands or even millions of views. He plays everything from Bach to Debussy, Rachmaninoff, and more. Some of the elephants he plays for are blind, some are injured, some are mothers with their calves, and still, others have various health issues. But it’s fascinating to see the ways that they respond to Barton and his music.

Barton is also a sculptor and a painter, sometimes posting time-lapse videos of his own creations set to classical music.

However, many of his most popular videos are of him playing for — or sometimes even with — the elephants of Elephants World sanctuary.

Though he can’t know for certain that his music eases their pain, Barton hopes to at least comfort them and give them a beautiful experience they will always remember. After all, they say that an elephant never forgets.

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