Saturday, November 21, 2009

Guitars, Cadillacs & Hillbilly Music  and see:

Bummer, the NYT "scooped" me on this tale of potential environmental crime.  I caught this a few days ago at the Tennessean website and was prepping a blawg post on the item.   Gibson Guitar's Nashville-area plant was raided by the feds looking for illegal supplies of exotic woods, particularly "rosewood" from the rain forests of Brazil and Madagascar.

I love Nashville and I am a passionate fan of hardcore hillbilly and bluegrass music.  Years ago a friend and I were in George Gruhin Guitars in Nashville playing the vintage Martins.  I get goose bumps thinking about the sound of some of the "pre-war" Martins and Gibsons that I played at Gruhin's, comparing them to newly minted versions of the same guitars.  Guitars, mandolins, and other string instruments are no less sublime than their classical string instrument equivalents.  The pre-WWII instruments are most prized because acoustically these guitars are astonishing.  There are a number of popular pornographic publications devoted to the beauty and desirability of these objects, for instance Fretboard Journal.

A whole lot of years ago I represented a couple of classical guitar teachers and performers and a sound engineer with the world famous Hometown Symphony Orchestra.  These guys started a classical/jazz label and I did the early corporate and contract work for the label and its early artist roster.  These are world class musicians.  Twenty-some years ago my friend Don, one of the guitarist/record label entrepreneurs acquainted me with the whole "exotic woods" problem and it's connection to fine instruments.  The clear cutting of rain forests is an environmental tragedy that implicates artisans of fine musical instruments, furniture makers, and builders.  That the Gibson guitar factory gets raided by the feds tells me that the injunction of Yehuda Berg: we need to choose to be aware--implicates every corner of my life including leisure and entertainment.

If your a business man in, say, Malaysia, Viet Nam, Honduras, the Phillipines, you can buy a child for $12 dollars to work in your third world sweat shop manufacturing jeans sold to Wal-Mart for $2, sold to me the consumer for $15.  Or I can choose to purchase products that meet certain fair trade standards that cost more that may or may not directly effect this human traffic business model.  Likewise I can make choices that affect the pace of the depletion of environmental resources--trust me Hillbilly music isn't going to disappear, thank God!


  1. India is the biggest exporter of legal rosewood today. Rosewood is illegal from Brazil. Same as mahogany. Been so for ages. Everyone knows that now. Trade is NOT restricted on Indian rosewood (or Indian/Indonesian/Fiji mahogany for that matter) So why does Gibson get theirs from Madagascar of all places? Everyone gets theirs from India. That's what feeds a lot of Indian families. I question the sensibilities of Gibson for getting rosewood from Madagascar. Something else going on there. They already sucked up to the Honduras government and did a deal with them to be supplied wit Mahogany. But for the rest of the world it is totally illegal. Smell a rat.

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