Allen Bruce Ray - or Bruce as he has always been & likes to be called - has been musically inclined since he was very small. He had a few years of halfhearted organ lessons in elementary school but then decided to teach himself acoustic & electric 6 & 12-string guitars in middle & high school back in the mid 1970’s. Like lots of other kids in northeastern Ohio, he dreamed of making a living playing guitar in a rock band. In fact, he did this to a small extent until sometime in 1983 but quickly learned that it was not really something he wanted to pursue further. He still played guitar a lot at home, especially the 12-string, and when he joined the army in 1988, his instruments accompanied him to a number of bases in the U.S. & finally to Korea, where he was stationed until early 1992.
After he finished his military service, Bruce became an English teacher in Korea - something he still loves and does to this day as his primary occupation - & ended up getting married there to a fine young lady in 2003. It was while living in Chuncheon, Korea that he first heard the sounds of R. Carlos Nakai's highly-evocative Native American flute playing in 2005 and downloaded his "Changes" album from emusic.com. When he & his wife came to the amicable decision to split up in 2007, Bruce committed himself to learning the NAF as a creative & constructive outlet for his emotions. He ordered his first flute, an A minor in Eastern aromatic cedar, from Richard Maynard, a.k.a. Laughing Crow, and received it on the last day of February. Armed with the new instrument and the highly-informative book “Understanding the Gift” by John Vames, he rather quickly familiarized himself with the Native American flute and found it to be the ideal way to express himself creatively.
Then the “bug” started… He bought more and more flutes in different keys, and when he received them, he took them out to play in some tunnels that he’d found not far from his apartment in Chuncheon, Korea - you know, just to hear how they sounded. There, he’d immerse himself in the natural ambiance & get lost in improvisations, sometimes for hours.
He eventually began making simple videos of himself playing in those tunnels, and on August 17, 2008, he started posting them on his newly-opened YouTube channel under the name "piriajeoshi" ("flute guy" in Korean). This proved very satisfying as it allowed him a way to share his love of the Native American flute and the haunting sounds of the tunnels with the whole world.
Finally in 2010, he managed to record his first CD of solo & accompanied Native American flute music. The idea for the title, Under Watchful Skies, came from an unusual photo he’d taken in New Mexico on a lovely summer evening in July 2009 in which a portion of a cloud formation strongly suggested a human eye (and no, there was NO "photo-shopping" involved, believe it or not!). It proved to be a highly satisfying experience for him.
His second CD, Elegant Simplicity, was released in August 2011. It consists of 42 songs played on 32 different flutes for well over 2 hours of 100% solo Native American-style flute music. The vast majority of this new music re-creates or re-imagines songs from his YouTube videos. Most of these were recorded in Wonju, Korea while he was working at Yonsei University there, and the cover photo was taken at a cafe in Wonju near Mt. Baek-eun.
Moonlight Meditations, his third release, became available as a downloadable album on December 7, 2012 and is the culmination of a year's efforts. This time around, listeners are treated to 10 interlinked tracks for an hour of low-to-mid-range Native American-style flutes. The music is played in waltz time at a constant 60-bpm pace to a hypnotic backdrop of frame drums, a Stephen Roberts "bass giant" B minor tongue drum, rattles, shakers, peeper sounds, and some subtle keyboard coloration from a variety of VSTi synthesizers. Once again, most of the pieces are either adaptations or further developments of songs from Bruce's YouTube videos.
Between August and October 2013, Bruce undertook the immense project of extracting, editing, enhancing, & assembling into "album" format the audio from the vast majority of his YouTube videos. He has now made all of these available for free or as pay-what-you-want digital downloads on www.allenbruceray.bandcamp.com. The results are the following eight (!) releases: Painting in the Shadows (August 14); Sense of Wonder (August 18); In Autumn Volume 1; In Autumn Volume 2 (both on September 19); In Autumn Volume 3 (September 22); Endlessly Flowing Stream (October 14); Frozen Moments (October 21); and Of Tunnels & Light... (October 22). The cover artwork consists mostly of creatively edited photos Bruce took in Wonju and Chuncheon, Korea.
Mr. Ray continues to find great joy in creating songs using the Native American flute and has well-formulated plans for many more CD's featuring this and other instruments. A lifelong goal of his is to promote this very simple but beautiful and deeply soulful instrument given to us by the Native Americans and share its exquisite sound with as many people as possible through his YouTube site, his recordings, in workshops (he hopes) or even just one-on-one situations.
A final, but not at all insignificant note: Bruce is thrilled to report that he & his ex-wife re-married in February 2012. They moved back to Chuncheon together in early 2013 after Bruce was invited back to his previous university position. Life for them is indeed good... and weather provided, tunnels continue to vibrate with the ethereal, haunting sounds of the Native American flute!