“Let’s not make the music world a scapegoat for deforestation”. In
a grandstand published Tuesday by the newspaper The world, nearly 200 personalities from the world of classical music are deeply concerned about the possible ban on the trade of pernambuco wood, used for the manufacture of strings. Among the signatories, very prestigious names: Martha Argerich, Yo-Yo Ma, Pascal Dusapin, Simon Rattle, or even Renaud and Gautier Capuçon. “We string musicians play Pernambuco wood bows, because it is the material that unites all the qualities required for the expression of our art”we can read in the gallery,
Brazil is in fact trying to ban the marketing of the wood of this endemic species, which grows only in the north-east of the country. Arguments: to fight for the conservation of the species and, above all, against the smuggling and illegal trade in Pernambuco wood, which have developed in recent years. The ban on its trade could be validated on 25 November at the end of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), in Panama. In the event of a vote, the decision would apply within 60 days.
“The disappearance of a centuries-old profession”
“The volumes of wood, European and exotic, used by lutherie as a whole are particularly modest compared to the volumes used by the paper, building or furniture industries in the world”the musicians plead, fearing for their activity but also for the future of the bow making profession: “The proposal made by Brazil could drastically limit travel and all commercial exchanges relating to bows for violin, viola, cello or double bass. The adoption of this proposal would also lead to the disappearance of a secular profession, the bowmaker, eliminating any possibility supply of Pernambuco wood “.
Other materials can be used, such as composite carbon fibers, “but the richness of pernambuco in terms of sound production is irreplaceable. A bow made of another material does not have the same acoustic qualities”Arthur Dubroca, bowmaker since 1996, based in the 17th arrondissement of Paris, explained to us last July. “playing comfort” : “From the moment we use a wood that is not Pernambuco, we modify the timbre, the reactivity of the stick, the joints …”
Pernambuco is classified “endangered species” since 1992. In 2007 the tree was listed “protected species” by a convention convened in The Hague and classified in Appendix II of the CITES. Since then, professionals have only been able to buy so-called ‘pre-conventional’ wood, wood that had already been declared and stored in 2007. The bowmakers therefore rely on existing stocks, which a total ban on circulation and trade – passing to Appendix I of Cites – would make things more precarious.
The expected (and feared) position of France and the EU
The decision would seem all the more unfair for luthiers and bowmakers as they have long been mobilized on the issue of pernambuco conservation, explained to France Musique Fanny Reyre Ménard, member of the office of the Chambre syndicale de la fabrication instrumental (CSFI): “For more than 20 years we have had a replanting program that is funded by professionals. We have already replanted just over 300,000 pernambuco plants, of which more than half is certified to be reserved for the conservation of the ‘species’.”
What worries the community even more is the possible endorsement of France and the European Union, which will have to pronounce on 11 November. In a press release, the CSFI appealed to President Emmanuel Macron and his prime minister, Elisabeth Borne.
A petitionagainst the classification of pernambuco in Annex 1 of CITES, it has already collected more than 16,000 signatures.