Martin Doyle has long dreamed of making flutes using timbers that have been produced in environmentally friendly and socially equitable modes. In recent years, Martin has been involved in a number of projects that have highlight a movement toward that reality and he has participated in the making of three radio documentaries highlighting the sustainable use of African Blackwood – Mpingo as the valued tonewood is known in east Africa. Martin is the first flute maker to produce an Irish flute from FSC certified African Blackwood having received a small amount of the timber some months ago.
This week Martin received his first full shipment of FSC certified African Blackwood which prompted the following comment:
“The arrival of this timber gives us the feeling of working in a sustainable environment that is genuinely beneficial to the people of Tanzania and we are very happy to be participating in a chain of events that has a positive outcome for everyone involved. It’s a great joy!”
Martin thinks that this shipment of timber has been harvested from the sustainably managed Mpingo forests around the village of Kikoli in eastern Tanzania – an area Martin visited during his trip to Tanzania in 2009. Martin’s plan is to be using FSC certified African Blackwood exclusively from the beginning of 2012 as his present stock of material diminishes. The flutes made from the FSC certified timber will be stamped accordingly.
Sound & Fair is an organisation that aims to realise a sustainable trade in African blackwood through a Chain of Custody linking forest-dependent people in Tanzania to woodwind instrument musicians throughout the world.
Martin Doyle has recently been featured in a Sound & Fair news item regarding a new batch of Irish flutes that he has produced from Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) certified African Blackwood – a ‘world’s first’ for the flute making community. Martin’s concern for conservation and the conscious use of timber goes back to when he first began working with wood. In the Sound & Fair article he comments:
July 27, 2011
Martin Doyle has just received the honour of being awarded first prize in the ‘Musical Instruments’ category of the 2011 RDS National Crafts Competition. The award was for a nine key flute made of cocus wood that Martin finished in April.
Martin drove from County Clare to Dublin with his apprentice Gwenn Frin on Wednesday to accept the award and they were joined at the RDS ceremony by Martin’s long-time friend and Aikido teacher Sean MacRuairi (John Rogers).
Martin Doyle has previously entered his flutes in two craft competitions winning major awards on both occasions. He was awarded the Crafts Council of Ireland Medal in 1985 (with an eight key flute made from African Blackwood) and the prestigious RDS California Gold Medal (overall winner) in 1993 (also with an eight key flute made from African Blackwood). Delighted by the encouragement of winning this years award, Martin had this to say:
Martin Doyle has for a number of years supported the sustainable use of African Blackwood (aka Grenadilla and Mpingo) – a unique tone wood that grows only in east Africa and has been used extensively by instrument makers throughout the world for over two centuries. He has recently produced his first flute made from African Blackwood that is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). The FSC is an independent, non-governmental, not-for-profit organisation established to promote the responsible management of the world’s forests.
In the past, Martin has been involved in producing documentaries for radio which explore the use and conservation of African Blackwood. This included Sounding Post and The Music Tree which were both produced by Nina Perry of Falling Tree Productions. In 2009, in the process of making of The Music Tree, Martin travelled to Tanzania with Nina where he saw first hand the efforts being made to manage the sustainable replanting and harvesting of African Blackwood. The local people who live in and around the Mpingo forests are now involved in all phases of the procedure and are reaping their share in the profits as well – a welcome stimulation to their economy that raises the standard of living.
Joe Doyle (one of Martin Doyle’s two sons, pictured right) was recently visiting Martin for a few days at his home near Liscannor in County Clare. A talented musician himself, Joe had the chance to play the first of the new flutes made from FSC certified African Blackwood and a recording was made that can be heard here: The Green Fields of Rosbeigh by Joe Doyle – Flute Music »
Martin Doyle is currently visiting Tanzania with Nina Perry of Falling Tree Productions to make a radio documentary called The Music Tree for the Irish radio station Newstalk. The Music Tree will feature Martin Doyle as an instrument maker visiting the area of East Africa where the Mpingo (African Blackwood) trees grow. Since the nineteenth century African Blackwood has been a timber favoured for woodwind instruments as its density, tonal properties, stability and durability are incomparable.
This trip is in its own way an historical occasion as many of the local people of Tanzania, some of whom are involved in burgeoning Mpingo conservation projects, have never before met a European craftsman who uses their timber to make musical instruments. Martin accomplished the task of making a flute with some of the local Mpingo carvers on the third day of his visit and by all accounts they were enthralled when it was played to them.
Nina Perry is kindly authoring a blog dedicated to the trip – Music Tree – so that we distant onlookers can keep abreast of events. No story, small or large, is complete without a picture or two, so here is one from Nina’s blog: