There are very few taboos in the work of American composer Dave Soldier. In the mid-1980s, he founded and played violin in the punk chamber group the Soldier String Quartet, an outfit that attempted to bring together the raw, amplified energy of rock with the polyphonies of Haydn and Beethoven.
Soldier has collaborated everyone from Russian conceptual artists, Komar & Melamid to Kurt Vonnegut to Mo Tucker on classical compositions, operas, chamber music, blues rock and amplified Andalusian folk, but he is, perhaps, most notorious for his work with children and animals. The Thai Elephant Orchestra, for example, was just what it sounded like, a herd of elephant playing enormous musical instruments, and he has also composed for zebra finches and pygmy chimpanzees. In the early ‘00s, he founded Da Hiphop Raskalz, a group in which five-ten-year-olds in East Harlem wrote and played their own music. Lately, he has travelled to Guatemala to create music with Mayan Indian children at the Seeds of Knowledge School in San Mateo Ixtatan. The children use giant marimbas, built especially for them, and it sounds pretty damned good.
“Casamiento de los Apaches” [MP3]
And just for fun, here’s a video of those elephants in the Thai Elephant Orchestra