Browsing the WordPress reader I was pleased to be reminded of Duende by blogger Jaq who has a great blog at Ars, Arte et Labore.

Jaq links to a lecture on Duende by 20th century Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca:

“In his brilliant lecture entitled “The Theory and Play of Duende” Federico García Lorca attempts to shed some light on the haunting and inexplicable sadness that lives in the heart of certain works of art.”

I am not familiar with Lorca, but enjoyed reading his lecture on the Duende so much that I thought I would post the links here and say a little bit about Duende.

Lorca begins the lecture by quoting Manuel Torre:

And Manuel Torre, a man who had more culture in his veins than anyone I’ve known, on hearing Falla play his own Nocturno del Generalife spoke this splendid sentence: ‘All that has dark sounds has duende.’ And there’s no deeper truth than that.”

Duende is associated with dark spaces, dark sounds, tragedy, wounds that never completely heal and only appears where there is the possibility of death alongside life:

“When the Muse sees death appear she closes the door, or builds a plinth, or displays an urn and writes an epitaph with her waxen hand, but afterwards she returns to tending her laurel in a silence that shivers between two breezes. Beneath the broken arch of the ode, she binds, in funereal harmony, the precise flowers painted by fifteenth century Italians and calls up Lucretius’ faithful cockerel, by whom unforeseen shadows are dispelled.

When the angel sees death appear he flies in slow circles, and with tears of ice and narcissi weaves the elegy we see trembling in the hands of Keats, Villasandino, Herrera, Bécquer, and Juan Ramón Jiménez. But how it horrifies the angel if he feels a spider, however tiny, on his tender rosy foot!

The duende, by contrast, won’t appear if he can’t see the possibility of death, if he doesn’t know he can haunt death’s house, if he’s not certain to shake those branches we all carry, that do not bring, can never bring, consolation.

With idea, sound, gesture, the duende delights in struggling freely with the creator on the edge of the pit. Angel and Muse flee, with violin and compasses, and the duende wounds, and in trying to heal that wound that never heals, lies the strangeness, the inventiveness of a man’s work.

Those dark sounds are the mystery, the roots that cling to the mire that we all know, that we all ignore, but from which comes the very substance of art. ‘Dark sounds’ said the man of the Spanish people, agreeing with Goethe, who in speaking of Paganini hit on a definition of the duende: ‘A mysterious force that everyone feels and no philosopher has explained.’”

Storyteller Michael Meade, who I first heard speak and tell stories at conferences with James Hillman and Robert Bly, works with at risk youth by connecting them back to myth, ritual and story in their own lives. He has written some very good books and has lived an interesting life that includes spending time in a military prison for declining the opportunity to fight in the Vietnam war. He writes of Duende:

File:Archway in Paigah tombs.JPG

“Duende is power, not simply work and not only thought, but a struggle with spirit in the blood. Not a question simply of talent given or skill earned, but an issue of genius entering life at the moment of birth and continuing to whisper dark notes to the mind and the heart. More a matter of true living style, of style written in the soul and born anew each time the self is willing to die again. Duende is the power that compels us to sing the song within despite and because we are torn apart by living. It is a sacrifice growing within, a tragedy pursed at the edge of knowing, a little dance with death that make life more than simple possibility.”

Duende helps me understand (on a good day anyway), that there’s value in the wound when we can make room for the gifts that come out of woundedness that is suffered both from personal tragedy and as a condition of life. The suffering that birth exposes us to along with life’s tragic experiences that are common to all although dark in nature, create an opening and a space. The darkness, when experienced through woundedness makes an opening that is the space in which creative energy wells up from the chthonic depths deep within the earth.

“Duende is the wound-womb we cannot hide and only suffer more each time we try to cover it over. The wound burdened with its songs and mysteries, always on the verge of reopening, perpetuating the specifics of sorrow, drawing us to its dark waters, creating out of painful necessity all the arts of healing.”

“The real dilemmas of life are never solved; the darkness between notes is never relieved, for each art and each life arises from that ancient ground- the mud of all creation, inviting us into the fervid dance that eschews progress in favor of being. The deeper song of life and death intoned again through us; the requirement that those who receive the gift of breath fashion the world over again.” 

A link to Jaq’s blog:


And to the Lorca lecture:


Photo from Wiki Commons: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Archway_in_Paigah_tombs.JPG

First things…

It’s been a busy Independence Day weekend. In between playing side drum with the Oregon Defense Force Pipe band at 1) The Hillsboro 4th of July parade and 2) Patriot’s Night at Volcanoes minor league baseball game, I have been working on transferring some cassette tapes of James Hillman & Michael Meade’s “Character, Fate & Destiny” conference (Seattle Art Museum, 1996) to mp3. It’s been great to have a little extra time in the form of a four day mini-vacation from work to finally start the transfer project. And, I can happily report that the final product is now in the cd player and I am listening to it. Michael starts the conference out with this: “Whatever is not being said is not being thought…and if it’s not being thought it is lost, and it is just those things that are lost that we need.”

The over-riding theme of the conference, through the use of poetry, myth, discussion and music was to provoke thoughts, ideas, discussion, feeling, being, and to look at ourselves, our culture, our place in time and history and to deepen our ideas; of who we are and where we are going. In 1997 I attended another conference featuring Hillman, Meade & Robert Bly. I have that on cassette tape as well and it will be the next transfer project. Although I cannot subscribe to all of Hillman’s world-view, his writings remain of primary significance in my life – the message being- live life as an adventure in soul making, continue to deepen one’s ideas in the hopes of greater understanding of one’s relationship to life and of those other souls we are fortunate enough to make contact with.

I stumbled onto Hillman’s writings back in the late 1980’s, when I found myself stumbling into my 30’s, “blown out on the trail,” you might say. Looking back, that period of my life marked the beginning of a huge movement into the dark, cavernous reaches of both my being and my relationship to the bigger world. I tried to get lost, moving 3,000 miles away from my hometown of Patchogue, NY, and to some extent succeeded. The distance gained allowed for a lot of indulgence, both in lifestyle and in soul-making.

It’s so hard to be human, yes? We’re not handed a life manual at birth, and yet, one’s past and family provide the basic template for our life that structures the world we reside in. Never to be fully comprehended, we seem only to be able to peak through the windows that open through time and experience. It takes a leaving, a journey away from home, to get a glimpse of who we are and where we’ve come from to see more deeply into the somewhat dark journey onward.