We are saving the trees that make the music we love
The Pernambuco tree has been used to make violin, cello, and double bass bows for 250 years. However, due to unsustainable farming and deforestation, the species is now on the verge of extinction and the music we love is under threat. This unique species (brazil-wood) not only gave its name to Brazil, but the unique sound generated by a Pernambuco bow cannot be replicated by any other tree.
We want to save classical music by saving the Pernambuco tree
Trees of Music is planting 50,000 Pernambuco saplings in Brazil, to help regenerate the Atlantic Forest. 93% of the forest has already been lost, and only a few thousand pernambuco trees are still standing in the wild.
The Atlantic Forest is under threat
The Atlantic Forest in Brazil is one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet. It is home to more than 20,000 species of plants and animal species unique to this forest, including endangered jaguars, golden lion tamarins, woolly spider monkeys, maned three-toed sloths and red-tailed parrots.
But this unique and irreplaceable biome is at risk of permanent extinction.
Only 7% of the forest remains and this remnant is shrinking by 1-3% per year. Pernambuco trees are locally extinct in many of the remaining fragments, meaning we only have a short time to act before we lose the authentic, traditional sound of the string section forever.
Trees of Music aims to reverse the damage wreaked on the forest
The project is spearheaded by master bowmaker and ecologist Marco Raposo, and is supported by regenerative agroecology experts RAIN (Regenerative Agroforestry Impact Network). Together we will regenerate lost forest and provide a source of sustainable timber to keep the music playing.
We aim to:
- Plant 50,000 Pernambuco trees
- Restore 150 springs
- Train 70 farmers to plant and care for the trees
- Regenerate 30 hectares of the Atlantic Forest
Marco needs your help to transform the music industry with his sustainable bows in order to keep the music playing.
We can all play a part in saving the Trees of Music
The project needs £60,000 to bring our vision to life and save the Pernambuco tree.
Most of this money will go towards seeds, soil, staff and equipment to plant 50,000 saplings and restore 150 springs over the next two years. For example:
- £3,500 is for Marco and his team to collect and bag seeds for sowing
- £2,000 will help train 70 local farmers to care for the trees
- £400 will help regenerate a water spring in the forest
- £100 will plant 80 Pernambuco trees
- £5 will plant 4 trees
Help us plant the seeds of music
Finding the seeds to grow strong trees is specialist work. Marco has created a Pernambuco nursery at Instituto Verde Brasil, which he founded in 2002 and where he has worked for two decades to research and grow hundreds of thousands of Pernambuco trees and other native species. Other Brazilian scientific and environmental institutions are helping develop techniques to grow, monitor and restore tree populations, and the project is overseen by Dr. Haroldo Lima, one of the world's leading specialists on the Pernambuco tree and the man who put the paubrasilia in its scientific name of Paubrasilia echinata.
Thanks to the successful first phase of fundraising, Marco’s nursery is now home to thousands of Pernambuco saplings.
But Marco needs help to achieve his vision of growing 50,000 saplings, which, through RAIN’s agroforestry and community engagement expertise, will be planted and cared for by local farmers in Viana, Espírito Santo, along the Brazilian Atlantic coast.
Half of these trees will be used for sustainable bow-making and half will be used to reforest 150 degraded springs and regenerate the Atlantic Forest biome, with broader long-term benefits for biodiversity, climate change mitigation and community resilience.
Our innovations in agroforestry help the trees to thrive
Pernambuco benefits from being grown in mixed agricultural systems. This produces stronger, more resilient wood, and, consequently, higher quality bows.
RAIN specialises in delivering community-led agroforestry projects in Brazil and is working to support new and innovative agroforestry systems, where mixed species are grown together. We are partnering with experts from the Botanical Gardens of Rio de Janeiro to monitor and evaluate how well they perform and plan to collect data to demonstrate the superior quality of the wood these trees produce and providing a blueprint for replicating and expanding these systems, thereby amplifying the impact.
Our work empowers communities
This partnership will train 70 farmers to care for the trees, generating sustainable income and a greener, more stable future for rural communities for generations to come. Marco is working with these producers to research best practices in agroforestry systems that will benefit trees and microbiomes across multiple regions into the future. The springs that the project will restore are the hubs of future ecosystems, islands of biodiversity that pour vibrancy and health into the land.
“Le violon, c’est l’archet.” – “The violin, it is the bow.” - Giovanni Battista Viotti
"The best wood for violin bows is brazil-wood, which only grows in Brazil and was declared endangered in 1986. The partnership with RAIN has helped us develop a scheme linking the private and state sectors and it feels like my cultural and ecological heritage is being supported by an important organisation such as RAIN, and also the classical community. We want to thank RAIN for having believed in our organisation, for helping us to save our national tree that gave the name of our country, and for helping to secure the future of classical music worldwide." - Marco Raposo, Instituto Verde Brasil and Trees of Music
Join the artists calling for more sustainable music
We are joined by some of the world’s most talented string players and ensembles, among them Steven Isserlis, Tasmin Little, Viktoria Mullova and Hugo Pilger, the London Mozart Players and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.
Composer Ben Comeau arranged a song by Chiquinha Gonzaga, Brazil’s first female composer and abolitionist, which was performed by an international lockdown orchestra of 29 players and was featured on Classic FM to highlight the imminent loss of the Pernambuco tree.
"The Brazilian pernambuco tree, favoured by virtually all bow-makers for its unique ability to bring out resonance in string instruments, has been so affected by deforestation that if we don’t take action, it might have as little as ten years left until extinction ... It’s beyond heartbreaking to realise how little Brazilian forest remains ... I think all of us musicians feel desperation when we read about the state of the natural world. But it’s especially jarring to consider that immaterial beauty, music, can contribute to such physical harm. There’s a strong parallel with the anxiety so many of us feel about the carbon footprints of our touring. Surely it ought to be possible to make great art that doesn’t inadvertently destroy the planet in the process! Or, better still, align our art with active efforts to heal? ... What a relief, then, to discover Trees of Music, a new initiative to cultivate sustainable pernambuco." - Matthew Barley
“For a violinist, the bow is an essential partner to the violin – without a beautiful bow, a violin will never sound at its best. No musician wants to make music at the expense of our environment so it is imperative that we find a way to ensure that nature and music continue to nourish and inspire us in a symbiotic way.” - Tasmin Little OBE
“I care deeply about the health of the rainforests for the survival of all the different species of plants and animals that dwell there, for their sake and for ours too. As musicians it is our duty to be conscious of the carbon levels we are contributing to and to be aware of the forests and their importance. I am lucky enough to have traveled to parts of South America and to have relationships with members of its indigenous communities, so protecting those communities is something that is very dear to me." - Misha Mullov-Abbado.
We urgently need your help
We don't have much time to save the Trees of Music, but we have all the tools and skills to make it happen. All we need now is your financial support.
Donate - help us fund this urgent project, and earn rewards.
Got a special occasion coming up? Why not buy your loved one some Pernambuco trees or restore a forest spring for them?
Collaborate - if you are an individual or organisation connected to music, register to become a Trees of Music ambassador or official partner.
Who are we?
At RAIN, we believe that indigenous communities, landowners, local farmers, and environmental specialists on the ground are the most knowledgeable when it comes to protecting the ancient and old-growth forest. That's why our projects are conceived, designed, and run by locals in Brazil and the UK, with support from us, to change their surroundings for the better. To find out more about our projects, click on the RAIN logo below.