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Lignophilia, Colonialism, and Music: The Trans-Atlantic and Eurasian-African Lumber Trades and Their Impact on Early Modern Musical Instruments

AuthorsIrving, David R. M.
KeywordsEarly Modern Musical Instruments
Trans-Atlantic and Eurasian-African Lumber Trades
Exotic Musical materials
Documentary evidence
Issue Date2019
PublisherBoston University
CitationAtlantic Crossings: Music from 1492 Through the Long 18th Century : (2019)
AbstractIn early modern Europe, exotic materials became increasingly naturalized and normalized within local music cultures through the systematic extraction, movement, and consumption of natural resources from around the world. Experimentation with woods, metals, and fibres as a result of new global trade routes, and the intensification or new domination over existing networks, created models and prototypes for musical instruments that would gradually gain currency as standardized forms. From the early sixteenth century onward, the intimate relationship between instrument-makers and natural resources within Europe was changed profoundly by encounters with new waves of botanical and biological specimens from around the world, followed by voluminous imports of newly favored materials on an unprecedented scale. The trans-Atlantic exchange, together with the intensification of Eurasian-African trade and commerce, enabled instrument makers to identify woods with unique physical properties, offering new technical and acoustical possibilities. For instance, bowmakers in Europe sought for centuries to find types of woods that were sufficiently light and flexible to be used dextrously on string instruments, yet stiff and strong enough to produce a good tone. The most musically influential of any tropical hardwoods were arguably Piratinera guianensis (today ¿snakewood¿) and Caesalpinia echinata (pernambuco), from Guyana and Brazil respectively. The latter eventually became the almost exclusive wood for bows of the violin family. For woodwind instruments, too, diverse materials were tried and tested, mostly from Eurasia-Africa. Encounters of European scientists and craftspeople with global materials triggered a host of botanical, biological, acoustical studies, some of which considered the musical propensities and sonic potentialities of natural resources. This paper analyzes documentary evidence drawn from natural histories, travelogues, inventories, and records of commerce to shed new light on the creative opportunities afforded to musicians and instrument-makers through the significant influx of materials from around the world, beyond Europe¿s imagined boundaries.
Appears in Collections:(IMF) Comunicaciones congresos
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