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Trees and Tones - Wooden Instrument Traditions: African Blackwood and Oboes

Sun Oct 28, 2018 4:00 PM - 6:30 PM
UC Botanical Garden
African Blackwood (Dalbergia melanoxylon) is the tree from which flutes, oboes, clarinets, and bagpipes are made. Growing almost exclusively in Tanzania and Mozambique, it is used for sculpture, medicine and more. Come view the landmark documentary, Mpingo: The Tree that Makes Music, narrated by David Attenborough and released in 1992 that brought the role of trees in music making at the forefront of the discussion. After a screening of the 43 minute film, we will be joined by Brenda Schuman-Post who will bring us up to date from where the film left off. The presentation will be followed by a performance by Sonic Forest. Virtuoso oboist Brenda Schuman-Post is the first musician in history to witness every detail from finding and harvesting an African Blackwood tree, to the making of a top of the line instrument. In 2008 she won a Global Connections grant “to create, via improvisation, a new piece of music that would bond the people in whose forests African Blackwood (grenadilla, mpingo, pau preto) grows, with the people who play musical instruments made from that tree”. She performed for audiences who had never before seen nor heard any Western keyed woodwind instrument. Brenda will play the oboe, show slides and video, exhibit authentic Makonde sculptures, and engage you with a hands-on display of the wood. She’ll talk about the searching for and harvesting of the tree, its characteristics and uses, about the people and places where it grows, and her experiences in East Africa, as well as what is currently being done to lift destitute East Africans out of poverty by preserving, conserving, protecting, and replanting African Blackwood. Brenda is the director of Sonic Forest, a diverse musical ensemble devoted to educational/entertaining programs that inform audiences about the relationships of music to nature. ------- ABOUT THE TREES AND TONES SERIES Biocultural diversity can be defined as the inextricable link between biological diversity and cultural diversity. An area where this relationship is distinctively exemplified is in musical traditions from around the world. This fall, as a part of our “Year of Trees” programming, the UC Botanical Garden is hosting a four-part series that highlights the relationship between music and plants as seen in instrument making and musical traditions throughout the world. We start the series with a feature on African Blackwood (Dalbergia melanoxylon) also known as Mpingo, the tree that is used in making oboes and clarinets. We then move into the stories of guitars (from classical and folk perspectives), Indian classical instruments, such as sitars and tamburas and their fascinating use of woods and gourds, and we end the series understanding the conservation concerns of Pernambuco or Pau-Brasil (Caesalpinia echinata) and its unique use in the making of violin and cello bows. This series will bring together luthiers, scholars, botanists and musicians to take part in an important discussion around raising awareness of plants in our daily lives.