The Music Tree

When people say “music from Pernambuco”, it usually means music that is made in Pernambuco or by artists from there. I discovered another type recently, which is music made using a resource that is traditionally Pernambucan.

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“All violin bows are made from the wood of just one type of tree, the Pernambuco Tree. It’s also called the Brazil wood tree and it’s found in the Brazilian rain forest. Over the centuries wood has been highly sought after as a dye, in furniture making and later by bow makers. So the exploitation of the Brazil tree is nothing new. More recently the wood has faced a new threat as vast swathes of the rain forest have been demolished for soya plantations. Documentary maker Otavio Juliano went to explore the dark depths of the Brazilian Amazon to find out more about this imperiled wood. But was he even able to find some?” [1]

Listen to the director talk about the film here.
Listen to German bow-maker Klaus Grünke talk about brazilwood here.

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“On IBAMA’s official site, brazilwood is listed as a flora species that’s at risk of extinction. Found only in the Brazilian forests, brazilwood became vital to the sound of violins and other string instruments since the times of Mozart. The music of Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert and their musical heirs can’t be played well without the modern bow, but the high-quality bows can only be made from brazilwood.

The combination of rigidity, flexibility, density, beauty and capability in maintaining the fixed curve are the properties that make brazilwood a quality material able to create exceptional sounds. For generations, the exact art of bow making has been passed down from master to apprentice and can be reaching its end without the necessary planning to preserve the wood from the brazilwood tree.

Since its introduction for the first time 250 years ago, bowmakers and musicians worldwide still haven’t been able to find a type of quality wood that compares to brazilwood, sometimes called Pernambuco wood.

From the Brazilian forests to the biggest concert halls of Europe, the documentary “The Music Tree” (A Árvore da Música) shows the importance of preserving nature through the narrow relationship between nature and music, and thereby culturally, historically and ecologically preserving the tree that gave Brazil its name.” [2]

If you’re interested in the documentary, the only place it’s available (for purchase) seems to be here.

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