As we saw in our last newsletter the regulations of the CITES Convention also affect the music industry. Although there has been some easing in the musical instrument sector since the beginning of December 2019, some woods are still regulated.
In addition, the question may rightly be asked in the course of the discussion about sustainability:
Is it really necessary to use tropical wood on an instrument if there is a local and sustainable alternative with the same sound?
Oliver Kläusler, Co-Founder and CEO of Swiss Wood Solutions with a background in research at the ETH Zurich, has dedicated himself to precisely this question.
A Carte Blanche
About three years ago, when I was still a research group leader for wood science at the ETH Zurich, musical instrument makers approached me and reported that it was becoming increasingly difficult to obtain good tropical wood for the construction of their instruments from a sustainable, reliable and legal source. In addition, it was becoming increasingly unpleasant for professional musicians to perform in public with dubious woods. Touring trips are also becoming more and more expensive, especially since more and more documents have to be obtained for border crossings with CITES-relevant instruments. Flawless musical instruments are therefore becoming increasingly important.
The challenge that practically an entire industry is facing was therefore clear. As a team of researchers, we began to modify local wood from sustainable forestry in such a way that it is acoustically high-quality with appealing aesthetics and very good play-ability. With this Sonowood, the musician can travel without coming into conflict with CITES-regulations. In addition, the new wood is fully biodegradable because it contains no dyes, synthetic resins or adhesives.
The Gebert-Rüf-Foundation financed the beginnings of the research work and so we first modified sycamore maple, spruce and beech and had success with the musicians. In order to make Sonowood available on a larger scale, we then founded the startup Swiss Wood Solutions. In the meantime we were able to purchase a larger machine and step by step we are gaining recognition in the market.
The development process of Sonowood material is closely monitored by professionals in the genre. These are musicians, but also instrument makers (mainly from Switzerland and Germany). These are soloists (violin, viola, cello, clarinet, acoustic guitar, electric guitar), or bow makers, lute makers, guitar and clarinet makers and piano makers. They support us by constantly receiving revised material, processing it, testing it and sending us feedback with suggestions for improvement. Many of them have already included Sonowood in their sales assortment. More than 200 instruments have already been successfully equipped, primarily string instruments, acoustic guitars and electric guitars. It will be exciting!
– Oliver Kläusler –
Oliver Kläusler ist Co-Founder und CEO der
Swiss Wood Solutions AG