Lecture:  Dr. Karl Young
"The Shakuhachi, a Traditional Japanese Bamboo Flute"
March 19, 7:30 p.m.


On Friday, March 19 at 7:30 p.m., Karl Young will present a lecture/demonstration of the shakuhachi, a traditional Japanese bamboo flute, which is becoming more widely recognized in the United States both for its haunting sound and its historical association with Buddhism. The history of the shakuhachi in Japan and the west will be described, and pieces from some of the more prominent lineages as well as some modern pieces will be played as illustration.

One of the few instruments explicitly designated as a tool for spiritual practice, it was legally banned for non monastic use in the Murumachi and Kamakura periods in Japan. In the west it has been used in a variety of contexts, from Buddhist practice to use by new age hucksters promoting "blowing Zen." But the historical record is far from settled and many argue that a strain of hucksterism has prevailed throughout the history of the shakuhachi. For example, the original government documents designating the official Zen sect, known as the Fuke-shu, were allegedly forged.

As the shakuhachi makes its transition to the west, all of the wonders and contradictions usually associated with the transplantation of a religious or cultural tradition are manifest. Contemporary composers, such as Toru Takemitsu and Pauline Oliveros have utilized the haunting sound and spiritual associations of the shakuhachi effectively, and a handful of players are currently trying to establish a voice for shakuhachi in jazz.

Karl Young is a physicist who has been studying and performing on the shakuhachi for more than 20 years, both as part of his Zen practice and as a musician. He has studied with Yoshio Kurahashi, Karu Kakizakai, Riley Lee and Philip Gelb among others. As a jazz musician, Young has long sought the sweet spot for the shakuhachi as a vehicle in jazz.

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