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Classical Notes

hug a tree, save a guitar

Posted at 1:30 PM on October 30, 2013 by Alison Young
Filed under: Film

Musicwood production still© 2013 Helpman Productions.

"When you cut down a tree and make it into a thousand different guitars all that means is that tree is singing in a thousand different voices."

So begins the film Musicwood, a documentary that tells the story of one brilliant move by the often-reviled environmentalist organization Greenpeace to pit capitalist against capitalist in the fight to save the ancient spruce trees of the Tongass National Forest.

And what is my interest in this film?

Instruments. Specifically the acoustic guitar which is made of threatened and endangered woods. The lovely face of a guitar is made of spruce, a tree that grows is abundance in Alaska. But the indigenous corporation Sealaska control a huge swath of the forest and feel it's their right -- and some say their responsibility -- to harvest the forest.

musicwood3web.jpg© 2013 Helpman Productions.

But their clear-cutting methods are at such a fast pace, some say only stumps and dirt will remain of this pristine wilderness in 10 years.

Mostly the wood is sent to Asia, with just a small percentage going to build musical instruments. And this is the group targeted.

Three of the world's most renowned guitar makers -- Gibson, Taylor and Martin, all competitors in the world of business -- were convinced to come together in a coalition they named Musicwood to work as advocates for changing the process of clear cutting the forest, and hopefully to save the very product they need to survive.

"There are beautiful trees up there that you could kneel down and say a prayer underneath and probably shed a tear doing it. But these guitars are made out of that. There has to be a win-win," says one maker as he tramps through the forest full of wonder and amazement dressed head-to-toe in rain gear.

It's a film of stunning beauty -- both musically and visually -- and, for me, stunning sorrow since to this day, no agreements have been officially reached and only questions are left.

The film will be released in New York City and on iTunes/DVD on Friday, Nov. 1.

View the trailer: