UKGFF: Musicwood Review

Musicwood Guitar

Words: Emmett Barlow
Twitter: @EmmettBarlow


What would you rather drive a vintage Ferrari or a Toyota Jazz? Words such as legacy, history and craftsmanship, may sway you, but in reality the price tag and national speed limit mean you get to you’re destination at the same time – although the salesman with his bank of slippery superlatives would have you feel otherwise.

You would do well to remember this watching Maxine Trump’s feature documentary Musicwood, taking its title and subject from extraordinary and baffling coalition of competing American guitar manufacturers, environmental activists and Native American Land owners.

The tender and thinly worn trifecta rests on the increasingly finite species of wood, Sitka spruce. Used by leading guitar makers, in a wider concoction of equally rarer woods, for their finer prestige models, one is mentioned with a price tag of $165,000. Found only in one region in Alaska, the resource is rapidly being diminished by the Sealaska organisation, projected as the greedy detestable antagonists, who are ‘Clear Cutting’ mass amounts of the national forest areas for quick gains. Inevitably, causing concerns for Greenpeace, as they would like to conserve and retain the Tongass region in Alaska as it is one of the rarest and ecologically rich rain forests conservations in the world.

Trump’s films dwindles focus as it progresses, as more resonant issues are lost fighting for a voice. Namely as the coalition of guitar manufacturers, Gibson, Taylor and Martins, whose initial interest in the narrative is towards the preservation of a material that is matured for over 600 years of growth – and as the opening monologue points out ingrained in natural music – Appear no different from the antagonistic Sealaska organisation, knowingly and continuingly using this rare material for profitable gain and in-turn supporting this organisations exploitation of an idyllic and rich eco-system in the American northwest. One could only hope on the back of this documentary, another, less idealistic filmmaker choses to document the plight and poverty of the indigenous people struggling to live of the land being slowly eroded by these feckless organisation, or, as it is briefly mentioned, how the illegal international logging trade is linked to wider more socially damaging crimes; a point that is brushed aside in romanticisms about expensive instruments and arguing millionaires.

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