Requiem or Revival?
The SoundWood programme (a component of the Global Trees Campaign) aims to improve the conservation of threatened tree species used to make musical instruments.
Over 200 different tree species worldwide are used to make musical instruments. Ebonies, rosewoods and mahoganies have been valued for centuries for their resonance and beauty in making a range of instruments. Unfortunately at least 70 of these species are threatened with extinction in the wild.
Musical instrument trees or ‘tonewoods’ provide some of the most valuable timber in the forest. Although the musical instrument industry is by no means a leading force behind the demise of these rare species, musical instruments require the highest-quality timber that often comes from slow growing, older trees. Unsustainable logging practices for this wood often have negative impacts on the forest as a whole and yield few benefits for local people.
SoundWood has a three-pronged approach to tackle the issue:
• Species and Habitat Conservation
SoundWood works to implement conservation projects for threatened tonewoods, for example, African Blackwood Dalbergia melanoxylon in Tanzania (used to make clarinets, oboes and other woodwinds) and Pau brasil Caesalpinia echinata in Brazil (used for violin bows).
• Education and awareness
SoundWood’s education and public awareness programme uses music as a vehicle to promote the conservation of threatened trees and their habitats, particularly those used for musical instrument manufacture.
• Industry integration
SoundWood works with the musical instrument industry to promote the use of sustainably produced timbers in instrument manufacture.
Species and habitat conservation
• Working towards first sustainably produced African Blackwood harvested by communities in Tanzania, aiming for certification by the Forest Stewardship Council in 2009 - see African Blackwood in Tanzania.
• Greatly improved information on Pau brasil Caesalpinia echinata – contributing to listing of Pau brasil on Appendix II of CITES in June 2007. Also replanting of Pau brasil seedlings in Atlantic forest in Cairu, Brasil - see Pau brasil.
• Population assessment of Dalbergia stevensonii in Belize to inform government sustainable use and conservation planning– see Dalbergia in Belize
Education and awareness
• Where do instruments come from? - SoundWood atlas – the highly popular,colourful and informative poster showing the link between threatened trees and musical instruments. Download the poster here, or e-mail email@example.com for a hard copy. NOTE: Although it does still provide a good resource for the illustration of wood used in instrument making, some figures used on this poster may now be out of date.
• Tools for teachers - including a SoundWood Teachers Book, SoundWood video Requiem or Revival? and a SoundWood Resource Box. These explore the issues of sustainability and responsible use of natural materials, taking the production of musical instruments from wood as an example and using music as a vehicle to convey key messages. These materials proved extremely popular with teachers and children alike. We regret that these materials are no longer available.
• SoundWood Schools music and dance events (UK) – Cambridge SoundWood Summer Concert (2003), Derby Summer of SoundWood (2002), Aberystwyth MusicFest (2001) – during which children attended workshops on the links between music and the environment and wrote and performed music and dance inspired by the SoundWood theme.
• Workshops held in schools in the Atlantic rainforest in Brazil (as part of Projeto Pau Brasil run by Amainan Brasil) reached 8,000 school children and 200 teachers.
• Workshops held in schools across the UK, using the education materials described above and aiming to stimulate students’ thoughts about the natural environment and their relationship to it via music.
• The SoundWood Sustainable Tone-wood Sourcing Conference, San Francisco, May 2002. The conference brought together representatives from major international instrument manufacturers, independent luthiers, forest product suppliers, sawyers, certification agencies and retailers to address a range of topics surrounding sustainable wood production and procurement, in particular the sourcing of high quality sustainably produced woods for musical instrument manufacture.
Download the conference report here
• Sons da Floresta, Brazil - with funding from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the British Embassy in Brazil, Amainan Brasil and SoundWood developed Sons da Floresta, a programme of events promoting certification of timbers used in the Brazilian musical instrument industry. A conference and accompanying exhibition held at the Museum of Modern Art in Sao Paulo brought together manufacturers, non-government organisations, government officials and the general public to discuss options for certification in Brazil.
• Promotion of responsible manufacturers through production of SoundWood Guide to the Guitar and a web-based Directory of Instrument Makers, detailing companies leading the way in responsible timber sourcing and use. We regret that both these resources are now out of date and no longer available.
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