2019 World Wood Day – Change

Invited for a Keynote Lecture at World Wood Day 2019 (Austria)

The global event: http://www.worldwoodday.org/

This year’s event: http://www.worldwoodday.org/2019/

The 2019 WWD Symposium and the 2nd IUFRO Forest Products Culture Research Group Colloquium : Program

Keynote Lecture for Topic 3 (Wood-based musical instruments, Art and Design):

  • Brémaud Iris (2019). Connecting wood physics and craftsmanship knowledge to understand biological and cultural diversity in wood choices for instrument making.


Among the biological diversity of forest resources, the choices of wood that has been and is done by humankind for various technical and cultural uses result from complex interactions between traditional knowledge, availability of a resource, and technical and material constraints. Several criteria of wood choice belong to the broad field that can be explicated or quantified by wood physics. However, wood physics is a relatively “young” (circa 150 years?) disciplinary field as compared to the long history of craftsmanship knowledge on wood. Moreover, wood physics studies are most often applied to “industrial” uses, or can be applied to objects of cultural heritage in the scope of conservation science, but seldom only is wood physics connected to understanding traditional or cultural uses of wood in craftsmanship. This presentation will propose some ways in which these often distant fields can be connected. Musical instrument making is an interesting domain to study such connections, as instruments combine high design requirements on both cultural, aesthetical (musical and visual) and physical (acoustical and mechanical) sides. Yet wood in musical instrument making is not a simple field to study, because of the multiplicity of points of view that can be quite different between “actors” (foresters, instrument makers, musicians, public, scientists…), and because the “musical” function often overshadows the other important functions of wood and instruments. This presentation aims to “tell a story” following three interdisciplinary questions: (i) What biological/botanical sources cause variability/diversity in acoustics-related wood properties? (ii)  Which species are chosen among this biological and physical diversity, depending on the cultural (historical or geographical) diversity in musical instrument making? (iii) How do instrument makers select, perceive and qualify the woods that they employ, and which material characteristics are involved in this process? These three topics should contribute to a better understanding of the meaning of “wood choice for instrument making”. This will be put into perspective in a concluding reflection about the involvement of these interconnected aspects in the crisis currently encountered regarding the rarefaction of many preferred woods in instrument making.