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Classical Music World Worries Over Clampdown On Trade In Rosewood

New regulations on the international movement of rosewood have hit hard in parts of the music industry, which has long relied on rosewood as a "tonewood" used in many kinds of instruments, including guitars, cellos and clarinets.

Chicago Symphony Orchestra cellist Dan Katz has two cellos. The better one — the one he prefers to play with the orchestra — is 200 years old and has rosewood tuning pegs. When the orchestra went on an 11-concert European tour in January, he purposefully left it home.

"I worry with that instrument about international travel now, because of those pegs," Katz said after rehearsing for a performance of Schubert's Ninth Symphony earlier this month.

"From my perspective, it just doesn't seem worth the risk," he said. He worried that a customs agent somewhere might confiscate his cello.

And he had reason to worry.

The reason for the crackdown, and for Katz's anxiety? China. Specifically, Chinese consumers' growing demand for rosewood or "hongmu" furniture.

China imported nearly 2 million cubic meters of rosewood logs in 2014, worth at least $2.6 billion, according to the conservation group Forest Trends. With an appetite that big, loggers, traffickers and politicians around the world have been cashing in, depleting rosewood stocks and fighting over the spoils of the timber rush. Advocates say more than 150 people have been killed in Thailand gunfights over rosewood.

So late last year, members of a worldwide treaty called the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) passed sweeping new international trade regulations. Among the requirements: musical instruments containing any amount of rosewood were subject to a complex, time-consuming permit system covering businesses and individuals.

Requirements differ by country, and trade and travel has become risky.

Read the full article here.

 

For more information about travel restrictions on musical instruments containing rosewood and other restircted materials and required permits, visit the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service website.

More information on travel restrictions on ivory contained in instruments or bows is also available on the League of American Orchestras website here.