Think about a world with out bows! A pizzicato rendition of Elgar’s Cello Concerto wouldn’t have fairly the identical ring, wouldn’t it?
The instruments of our music are formed by historical past and geography – and this may current challenges. The Brazilian pernambuco tree, favoured by nearly all bow-makers for its distinctive skill to convey out resonance in string devices, has been so affected by deforestation that if we don’t take motion, it might need as little as ten years left till extinction.
What a reduction, then, to find Bushes of Music, a brand new initiative to domesticate sustainable pernambuco. It’s not the primary challenge of its type, nevertheless it’s utilizing classes learnt from earlier tasks to enhance effectivity of planting, whereas taking the utmost care with the encompassing ecology. Nature is a fantastically complicated system, and you’ll’t remedy one drawback with out listening to the entire!
I do know the magical ambiance of the Brazilian forests simply exterior Rio de Janeiro, having explored them with my spouse, Viktoria Mullova, throughout a recording challenge about eight years in the past. I by no means knowingly noticed a pernambuco tree, although these forests are considered one of its few remaining habitats. It’s past heartbreaking to grasp how little Brazilian forest stays. We’ve all heard in regards to the catastrophic destruction of the Amazon, however much less consideration has been paid to Brazil’s different monumental forest, the Mata Atlântica (Atlantic Forest), house of the pernambuco, which as soon as coated greater than 5 occasions the dimensions of the UK. Now simply 6% is left. An space the dimensions of a soccer subject can include 450 separate species of tree, and it’s shrinking at round 1-3% per yr. David Attenborough’s horrifying international statistic involves thoughts: earlier than WWII, 66% of the world’s landmass was wilderness; in 2020 it was simply 35%.
How ironic for this to threaten the tree that actually gave its identify to Brazil. Portuguese explorers, first touchdown in 1500, in a short time found the pernambuco tree’s use for purple dye, giving it the identify ‘pau-brasil’ (actually ‘reddish tree’). The ensuing commerce was so worthwhile that the land turned generally known as ‘Terra do Brasil’ (land of Brazil). The wooden’s skill to carry a hard and fast curve made it the go-to materials for bows since François Tourte, the ‘Stradivari of the bow’, within the 18th century. Not one of the proposed options, comparable to carbon fibre, have caught on. An alarming blackmarket pernambuco bow commerce continues despite the species’ endangered standing. In 2018, over 20,000 bows from illegally logged wooden had been seized. Even the authorized business might be astonishingly wasteful: in an effort to discover unblemished wooden, a kilogram of wooden could also be used to make a single bow, and trails of fallen, disused bushes lie of their wake.
I feel all of us musicians really feel desperation after we learn in regards to the state of the pure world. But it surely’s particularly jarring to contemplate that immaterial magnificence, music, can contribute to such bodily hurt. There’s a powerful parallel with the anxiousness so many people really feel in regards to the carbon footprints of our touring. Certainly it must be attainable to make nice artwork that doesn’t inadvertently destroy the planet within the course of! Or, higher nonetheless, align our artwork with energetic efforts to heal?
Splendidly, that is attainable. The hero of the pernambuco story is Marco Raposo, a legendary Brazilian bowmaker who has spent a long time researching each side of sustainable bowmaking, not least the soil from which the pernambuco tree grows. Marco has teamed up with Bushes of Music with the goals to plant 50,000 pernambuco saplings, reforest 150 water springs, and prepare 70 farmers to domesticate sustainable pernambuco.
In the meantime, Bushes of Music is reaching into the classical group, each to help Marco’s challenge (which depends on our beneficiant donors), and likewise to lift wider consciousness across the ecological footprints of our artwork. To launch the challenge, we’ve simply made a music video that includes Viktoria, my bassist stepson Misha, and me, accompanied by a lockdown string orchestra with members from UK, USA, Brazil and elsewhere, performing music by Chiquinha Gonzaga, the pioneering 19th century Brazilian composer, conductor, feminist and abolitionist. Given how a lot we string gamers owe to a Brazilian tree, it felt poetically acceptable to honour the music of this nation. (By the way, Brazilian melodies all the time appear to translate particularly properly onto string devices.)
Bushes of Music might be making extra supporting movies, each musical and academic, and need to attain out to as many string gamers as attainable to carry out and assist unfold the phrase. It’s indescribably thrilling to help a challenge that makes a distinction on so many ranges near my coronary heart: the traditional craft of bowmaking; biodiversity; sustainability; the artwork of string enjoying; and delightful music. Now, can we get a veritable refrain of string gamers behind this? Go to treesofmusic.org to search out out extra about this unimaginable tree, and the way we as musicians will help put it aside!