Goro Yamaguchi, a player ofthe shakuhachi, or wooden flute, who was named a "livingnational treasure" in Japan and who introduced the instrumentto many Western listeners, died on Sunday in Tokyo. He was 65and lived in Tokyo. The cause was a heart attack, said Ralph Samuelson,one of his American students.
Yamaguchi was a renowned figurein Japanese traditional music. His 1968 album of Zen meditationmusic for the Nonesuch Explorer series, "A Bell Ringing inEmpty Sky," was the first widely available Western recordingof the shakuhachi, and it was a revelation to many Western listeners.Music from that album was included in a selection of Earth musiccarried into space by Voyager 2 in 1977. Reviewing Yamaguchi forThe New York Times in 1987, Robert Palmer praised his "large,enveloping sound, remarkable for such a small, fragile-lookinginstrument."
Yamaguchi was born into afamily of traditional musicians in Tokyo. His father was a leadingshakuhachi player and his mother played the koto and shamisen.Goro Yamaguchi began studying shakuhachi with his father whenhe was 11, and made his public debut two years later. By his mid-20's,he had been recognized as one of his generation's outstandingshakuhachi players. He received three Ministry of Culture GrandAwards; in 1992 he was designated a "living national treasure."
In the United States, Yamaguchiwas the first visiting artist in residence for Wesleyan University'sprogram in classical Japanese music. He had students both in Japanand abroad, and until his death he was a professor at Tokyo Universityof the Arts.
He is survived by two daughters,Junko Kato and Tamoko Yamaguchi; two grandchildren, three brothersand a sister.