Jenny Kendler: Music For Elephants

Artist Jenny Kendler demonstrates and gives context to her work Music for Elephants. Recorded on November 1, 2016, at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.

A full recording of the piece can be found here on soundcloud


Every note you are hearing represents a single month of the amount of elephants that have died.

So there’s 300 months in the 25 years. Those are four-digit numbers. So the average being I think its 1,667. But then the algorithm that we wrote introduced a factor of randomness into that try to imitate what might happen in a real world scenario. And then higher numbers are lower notes.

So you’ll notice as the score goes on there’s more and more lower notes.

Also because these are three digit numbers so then we use different numbers within the number itself to control how long the note is.

So how long it sustains for, and then how quickly the next note might come in.

We think we have a population today of about 400,000 African Elephants and that’s gone down from many, many millions before the start of the 20th century. So between 2010 and 2012 over 100,000 African Elephants were massacred for their ivory.

What essentially is happening is we’re like ripping fabric of elephant society.

So there’s a lot of things that we can do. I mean first and foremost we can all be educated and care about this it’s very possible that elephants could disappear from the earth within our lifetime.

But another thing we need to do is give more money to anti-poaching efforts in Africa and we also need to support the people who live in rural communities in Africa, we need real meaningful solutions to poverty.

We also need to have better international trade laws that’s what’s going to need to happen to change things.

Elephants are so intelligent; I believe that they have a language. They communicate in very sophisticated ways that we’re only beginning to understand but they don’t have a voice in our society and in our political system.