Perry Yung: Shakuhachi maker, musician
Hi, I’m Perry Yung. Welcome! I first discovered the shakuhachi flute while performing in New York City as an actor in Ellen Stewart’s Oedipus the King. Night after night, the subtle sound grew to become all encompassing. Soon, I started making the flute as it was impossible to buy a shakuhachi in the pre-internet days of 1994. Time passed and eight years later got a grant to live in Japan to study traditionally with some of the best makers and players in the world. The shakuhachi changed my life in ways that words can not describe. My goal is to help you with a flute that can open that door as it is a beautiful world on the other side. Come on in!
Those interested in my acting work (TV, film and stage) can see what I’m up to at my actors blog. - https://perryyung.wordpress.com/
My work with this special instrument ranges from crafting and repairing of traditional flutes to performing in theater, recording for film and with contemporary music, most notably with the renown composer Vangelis (Doha, Qatar 2011). In 2002, I received the Japan-US Friendship Commission Artist Fellowship which enabled me to travel throughout Japan to meet with some of the most renown shakuhachi makers and players. I was introduced to my main shakuhachi making and playing sensei, Kinya Sogawa, through my New York City shakuhachi teacher, Ralph Samuelson. I was awarded an Asian Cultural Council Artist Fellowship in 2014 to travel to Japan to for research of antique shakuhachi instruments and music
With Great Jones Repertory Group, Celebrating Ellen Stewart, 2010
I graduated from San Francisco State University with a Bachelor’s of Fine Art degree. I was first introduced to the shakuhachi through Yukio Tsuji and Genji Ito, two resident musicians of La Mama E.T.C. Shortly after, I studied traditional music under Ronnie Nyogetsu Reishin Seldin, Brain Ritchie and Ralph Samuelson before going to Japan to start my Japan/US Friendship artist residency. I studied making and playing in the Dokyoku style of Watazumi under Kinya Sogawa in Saitama, Japan and in order to gain a wider, unbiased understanding of shakuhachi making, I began studying other styles of shakuhachi music - Jin Nyodo style under Keisuki Zenyoji (Jin Nyodo’s godson), Goro Yamaguchi (Chikumeisha Kinko) under Christopher Blasdel and contemporary techniques with Akikazu Nakamura (Katsuya Yokoyama, Berklee College). For shakuhachi making, I visited the workshops of Tom Deaver, John Neptune, Motofumi Tatekawa and the Kitahara family of Seikado. I also attended workshops in Japan and the US with master Kifu Mitsuhashi and did several private intensive lessons with Riley Lee to study the Chikuho Notation system. And as part of my on-going studies, I continue to expand and hone my understanding of the shakuhachi by studying the Myoan Honkyoku music with Nancy Beckman (Fukumoto Kyoan and Yoshimura Fuan, the 39th and 40th heads of Meianji - Myoan Temple). These days, Ralph Samuelson is my main teacher but I am greatly indebted to all my wonderful, generous teachers whom I honor by spreading the shakuhachi with inclusion.
Performing aburanuki (oil removal) on newly harvested bamboo with Kinya in 2003
My performance work takes precedent but I take shakuhachi commissions and repair work daily. Here are two Yung Professional JIARI shakuhachi and a vintage Kinko Ryu instrument.
Mixing Japanese urushi Lacquer.
I undertake all aspects of traditional shakuhachi making and repair and use traditional Japanese materials such as authentic Japanese Madake bamboo from Japan, Water Buffalo Horn, Ivory (reclaimed) and authentic urushi lacquer (not cashew or synthetic American paints called lacquer). Using traditional materials and techniques are required for some things, but sometimes contemporary glues can be better since these have improved over the last 30 years. The best objective choices are made for the instruments and they receive my utmost attention and the best treatment.
I have been an invited guest artist to teach shakuhachi making workshops in traditional shakuhachi music settings such as Michael Chikuzen Gould’s shakuhachi camps, in zen centers - The Zen Center of New York City (Fire Lotus Branch) and Zen Mountain Monastery (Mountains and Rivers Order): https://zmm.mro.org/teacher/perry-yung/, museums - Tibetan Museum, New York and in institutions of higher learning - University of Massachusetts, Smith College, Washington College and Three Rivers Community College (to name a few).
photo by Larry Mullins
At Michael Gould’s Chikuzen Ro Camp 2007
Playing the shakuhachi can be divided into two main approaches - the musical and the spiritual (for some, they are the same). Working in zen centers have helped me fuse both traditional music performance and spiritual practice. For me, there is no wrong way to play the shakuhachi. Whether one wants to sit and breath deeply with a natural bamboo flute, or perform in an ensemble at Carnegie hall with a fine-tuned instrument, there is an appropriate flute and teacher for the situation.
Participants of my Crafting of Pure Sound Workshop at Zen Mountain Monastery. July, 2012.
Since returning from Japan in 2003, I found myself using the shakuhachi in my workshops as a tool that helps to discover the individual voice. These days, people have come to me specifically to learn how to play the shakuhachi music. I use traditional Honkyoku music (solo shakuhachi music of the Komuso Monks) as a starting point for understanding the power and benefits of deep breathing. My philosophy is influenced by both the professional, musical world, creative activity and the personal spiritual journey. There is no mystery, just learning good form that will lead to a good sound and provide a fulfilling path one can explore for a lifetime of musical and spiritual enrichment.
At the core of my art practice is the mission to make society a better place, to leave this world better than I found it. On a utilitarian level, I have been donating to UNICEF since 1980. Throughout the years with the help of eBay, hundreds of shakuhachi players, musicians, zen practitioners and plain folks worldwide have joined me. I invite you to join us in helping to make a difference in the lives of the world’s most underprivileged children. A deep breath with positive visualization can go along way.
Have a mindful day! Perry