Goro Yamaguchi

Goro Yamaguchi is most probably the greatest Japanese shakuhachi player of the second half of the 20th century. He was recognized by the Japanese government for his artistic contributions and was designated "National Living Treasure" in 1992. He passed away on January 3, 1999, at age 65. Yamaguchi was born in 1933 to a musical family. His father was a famous shakuhachi performer and his mother a shamisen and koto player. His father taught him the Kinko style, one of the two major shakuhachi styles of the 20th century. During the postwar period, Yamaguchi quickly became one of the most respected shakuhachi players in Japan. He received many awards and was often sent abroad by the Japanese government as cultural ambassador. He also produced numerous LPs, CDs, and video teaching tapes and appeared regularly on radio and television. Until his death, he taught shakuhachi at the Tokyo University for the Arts, the only national university in Japan with a traditional music department. Goro Yamaguchi was a gentle, private person with little desire for publicity, yet his influence was felt around the world. His music demonstrated a balance between the elements needed to play sankyoku ensemble and honkyoku solo music. In his teaching, he continually stressed that music cannot be divorced from everyday life -- otherwise the music becomes soulless. His philosophy of shakuhachi playing could be summed up in the following statement: One's life must become musical and one's music must become one's life. An obituary by Christopher Yohmei Blasdel appeared in the Japan Times, January 8, 1999. ~ Bruno Deschenes

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