Saturday, January 2, 2016

The ivory trap

Bits of ivory – on the tips of violin bows, bells of bassoons, and components or decorative features of other instruments, from drums to bagpipes – can create bureaucratic and logistical nightmares for musicians on tour, who face seizure or quarantine of their instruments when they travel to and from the US and European countries that enforce a ban on importation of ivory in hopes of stemming the slaughter of elephants for their tusks.

Other rare or endangered substances used in making instruments can raise red flags in the customs shed, too.

Preparing for a tour of Europe, the National Symphony Orchestra has had to catalogue and secure permits for “the 46 bows its members are taking with ivory tips, the 16 bows with white oyster, which, although not a banned substance, must still be declared, and the 21 bows with water-monitor-lizard skin on the grip,” Cynthia Steele, the orchestra’s manager, tells The Washington Post’s T.R. Goldman: