Duende

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 each other.

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 magic.

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 can explain."

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 Seeding Spark and amazingly not one ever refused to do what I asked. I revere their trust.

The 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.