Duende like art itself has faces that are both
appealing and dangerous. It can be dark and hard to pin down. Coming
from southern Spain, "Duende" has only recently migrated to English.
Dictionaries give meanings sometimes at odds with
The New Oxford English Dictionary gives: 1. A ghost,
an evil spirit; 2. Inspiration, magic, fire.
The Random House Dictionary gives: 1. A goblin, demon,
spirit; 2. Charm, magnetism.
The Larousse Spanish-English Dictionary translates
duende as Goblin, elf, imp/Magic. It gives the usages: los duendes
del Flamenco, the Magic of Flamenco; tener duende, to have a certain
We take our cue from the great Spanish poet, Federico
Garcia Lorca. He gave a famous lecture on La Teoria y Juego del
Duende – The Theory and Function of Duende. Lorca says:
In all Andalusia, from the rock of Jaen
to the shell of Cádiz, people constantly speak of the duende and
find it in everything that springs out of energetic instinct. That
marvelous singer, "El Librijano," originator of the Debla, observed,
"Whenever I am singing with duende, no one can come up to me"; and
one day the old gypsy dancer, "La Malena," exclaimed while listening
to Brailowski play a fragment of Bach: "Olé! That has duende !"-
and remained bored by Gluck and Brahms and Darius Milhaud. And Manuel
Torres, to my mind a man of exemplary blood culture, once uttered
this splendid phrase while listening to Falla himself play his "Nocturno
del Generalife": "Whatever has black sounds has duende." There is
no greater truth.
These black sounds are the mystery, the
roots that probe through the mire that we all know of, and do not
understand, but which furnishes us with whatever is sustaining in
art. Black sounds: so said the celebrated Spaniard, thereby concurring
with Goethe, who, in effect, defined the duende when he said, speaking
of Paganini: "A mysterious power that all may feel and no philosophy
The duende, then, is a power and not
a construct, is a struggle and not a concept. I have heard an old
guitarist, a true virtuoso, remark, "The duende is not in the throat,
the duende comes up from inside, up from the very soles of the feet."
That is to say, it is not a question of aptitude, but of a true
and viable style - of blood, in other words; of what is oldest in
culture: of creation made act. This "mysterious power that all may
feel and no philosophy can explain," is, in sum, the earth-force,
the same duende that fired the heart of Nietzsche, who sought it
in its external forms on the Rialto Bridge, or in the music of Bizet,
without ever finding it, or understanding that the duende he pursued
had rebounded from the mystery-minded Greeks to the Dancers of Cádiz
or the gored, Dionysian cry of Silverio's siguiriya.
Read Frederico Garcia Lorca's essay The
Duende: Theory and Divertissement
Here in the Alluvial Mine you need to
reach into the loam and feel Duende if you are to find Eldorado
Ways to touch the loam
I have this idea that if I get my students
put their hands into rich loam and then write with dirty fingers
they will come to know duende. I wonder how many genius's would
sprout from therich earth?
Students I taught in primary schools
many years ago, who came to LaTrobe, still remember me talking about
the muses, my imaginary friends, wafting under the door to be with
and inspire us. They remember me making them plant seedlings to
watch grow, all in the hope that they would understand what comes
from fertile soil.
Few have forgotten me making them talk
to blades of grass and mushrooms and fragments of nature and making
them ask these things about the meaning of life. All remember the
and amazingly not one ever refused to do what I asked. I revere
Alluvial Mine is the property of Heather
Blakey and Miners who have generously shared their work. Please
do not replicate any part of this mine without written permission.