We Are the Music Makers

We are the music-makers,

And we are the dreamers of dreams,

Wandering by lone sea-breakers

And sitting by desolate streams;

World losers and world forsakers,

On whom the pale moon gleams:

Yet we are the movers and shakers

Of the world for ever, it seems.


– excerpt from “Ode” by Arthur O’Shaughnessy

Sound, like life, is a miracle of this planet. Sound needs molecules to travel through and be, which is why there is no sound in the vastness of space. There’s nothing for it to bounce from—and, arguably, no one to hear it.

Isn’t it amazing how many varieties and textures of sound exist in our planet, and now, how many can be created with the use of technology? Even the most basic, archaic instruments allow for the miracle of arranging sounds into melodic compositions, making up the alchemy that is music.

Photo on 8-28-15 at 10.05 AM #2
Music is always on my mind, but this week I’m missing my guitars and coincidently, the Petén region I’m in right now is the source of some of the best guitars in the world.

Humans are special for a lot of reasons, but their ability to shape sounds into music is one of our standout qualities. To me, it’s the main redeeming quality we have as a species—the greatest constructive ability in a black hole of destructive tendencies. Perhaps, music is the language of our souls. In my magical thinking and collaged philosophies, I truly believe this.

(At this moment, I’m browsing through my music library, smiling to myself, and marveling at the songs created by some of my talented, musical friends.)

The region I find myself in now—Petén, Guatemala—is mostly a biosphere reserve that permits the sustainable-use of natural forest resources. One of the most valuable resources is timber. Not only does this FSC-certified wood create livelihood opportunities for the rural and indigenous communities of the Petén, but the sustainably-harvested mahogany from here also has a special tonewood quality that creates some of the best-sounding guitars in the world. Martin Guitar and Gibson Guitars are two major brands that purchase wood here, where only 1 to 3 trees are cut per hectare. To get some great insight into the kind of work I’ve been supporting for the past couple of months, watch this 20-minute documentary featuring the Associación de Comunidades Forestales del Petén (ACOFOP) and a couple members of Maroon 5.

Though my direct work here has been with the ramón seed, a non-timber forest product, many of the issues explored in the documentary backdrop and seep into the work I do, too. It has been a real privilege to work with ACOFOP and these Petén communities—a prime example of what successful community-management of forest concessions looks like. It’s really up to us, as consumers and members of this planet, to know where our products come from and choose to support the people that are taking care of nature, assuring that the magical sounds of this forest—and its species—continue to exist for generations to come.

I took this photo from Tikal, one of the most visited Mayan sites of Petén. Granted that this area is especially well-cared for, but it was still impressive to see the dense forest-cover and intact habitat for as far as the eye could see.

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