Wednesday, October 19, 2011

An Original Edo Voice Restored: A Perry Yung Special Repair

A 1.7 Edo period shakuhachi on Ebay that was represented by some blurry photos, and described as a sweet-toned flute before it had cracked after it had travelled from Kyoto to the drier climes of sunny Spain, was a relatively cheap buy.   Yes, it was thoroughly cracked, but luckily the old bamboo closed completely after three days in a humid box.  And after it was bound, the old flute played with a nice nuanced and dynamic tone with a sweet kan. 

In the recent past, however, someone had added a brown paste covered with red urushi or lacquer at the top of the flute.  And the original urushi in the bore was so old that it had become chipped and flaked.  After several months of playing it, some of the recent urushi fell out and the flute became stuffy.  I temporarily filled the gap with electrical tape, that almost worked, but something was missing, and more urushi was coming loose.  I finally decided to send it off to Perry for repair.


Perry's initial appraisal was that this shakuhachi was most likely made by a Komuso monk.  A Buddhist pilgrim would appreciate the water gourd hanko.  Perry also felt some strong energy as it was played a lot by the maker or previous owners, the bamboo of the finger holes had been worn down by decades or even centuries of appreciative meditative playing...

Perry removed the recently added red urushi and paste, and the older flaking urushi in the rest of the bore.   The top of the bore was widened slightly to increase the resonance of otsu Ro.  There was a divot under the front of the ivory inlay and it was decided the best route was to coat the inlay with rubbed layers of shuai urushi for a cool translucent antique effect.  Perry also gave the flute's bore a layer of new shuai to replicate the original layer of urushi it had when first made.

When I got the shakuhachi back (after it flew out on one of the last planes from NY before Hurricane Irene closed down all the airports for the weekend), there was an immediate response to the improved resonance and increased dynamics, surprises of nuanced tones leapt out from varying angles...  As Perry put it; "Your old Edo 1.7 sounds really great now. It has an intimate yet lively feel, like many of the better-made, older and shorter flutes of the period. I believe this is how it probably first played for the original maker, before someone painted the other paint in the bore."  Perry feels like I do, these Edo period flutes are kind of priceless, as they open a door to how another time sounded.  Perry definitely brought this one back from an obscured past after his fine restoration... thanks so much, Perry!  The sound of it now really sends me back!

Thanks for the free antique flute bag, too!  A nice surprise....