Re: el duende

From: Jacques Du Pasquier (
Date: Wed Dec 26 2001 - 10:52:52 MST

Talking about something that is experienced but not understood,
probably simply because it is an ontologically desperate distinction
(in simpler words : it doesn't exist), is often creative.

I have a theory about tradition in art, which is that its main use is
to fool the artist's mind into thinking it is "at home", repeating
something already existent (which the mind tends to prefer, because it
is not very adventurous unless risk is really required), while it is
actually covering new ground.

Similarly, the duende meme may be strong (= traditional) for the same
reasons : while people improvise words about what it is (and some very
nice samples are given by scerir), they are set free from the rut more
efficiently than in any other way.

A vaster form of this may be the art meme itself. How many "inspired"
writings about art ? And yet, how much of all that stuff is in any way
conclusive ?


scerir wrote (26.12.2001/16:38) :
> El duende. Does it exist? Perhaps. And 'where' is it?
> Is it an attractor? Is it a useful hypothesis?
> Something to do with non-computability (1) of
> Kolmogorov complexity (2)? Was Nietzsche in search
> of duende?
> Federico Garcia Lorca wrote (3, 4) in ŒTeoria y Juego
> del Duendeš, ŒPlay and Theory of Duendeš, Madrid, 1933,
> that every man, and every artist, climbs each step,
> in the tower of his perfection, by fighting his duende,
> not his angel, nor his muse. Because angels and muses
> escape with violin, meter, and compass: the duende wounds.
> But there are neither maps, nor disciplines, to help us
> find the duende. The duende lives in the remotest mansions
> of the blood. We only know that he burns the blood like
> a poultice of broken glass, that he rejects all the
> geometry we have learned, that he smashes styles.
> With idea, sound or gesture, the duende 'enjoys'
> fighting the creator on the very rim of the well.
> The Oxford English Dictionary gives, for duende:
> ghost, evil spirit, inspiration, magic, fire.
> But this old term was also used by Andalusians (and
> Calderňn de la Barca) to describe artists (or women)
> whose music, or dance, (or spirit), was especially
> inspired: Œthis has much duendeš. 'The most elusive
> word in the Spanish language is duende. Like a breeze
> or moonlight, it is more easily experienced than
> explained' wrote Rod Usher.
> Garcia Lorca reports what Goethe, speaking about
> Paganini performing concerts, once (perhaps) said:
> <mysterious power which everyone senses and no
> philosopher explains>.
> 'This <mysterious power which everyone senses and not
> philosopher explains> is, in sum, the spirit of the earth,
> the same duende that scorched the heart of Nietzsche, who
> searched in vain for its external forms on the Rialto
> Bridge and in the music of Bizet, without knowing that
> the duende he was pursuing had leaped straight from the
> Greek mysteries to the dancers of Cadiz (...)'.
> 'El duende ... Where is el duende? Through the empty
> arch comes a wind, a mental wind blowing relentlessly
> over the heads of the dead, in search of new landscapes
> and unknown accents; a wind that smells of child's spittle,
> crushed grass, and jellyfish veil, announcing the constant
> baptism of newly created things'.
> 'All that has black sounds has duende' wrote Manuel Torre,
> famous 'cantaor' flamenco. 'Behind those black sounds,
> tenderly and intimately, live zephyrs, ants, volcanoes,
> and the huge night, straining its waist against the
> Milky Way', added Garcia Lorca.
> 'I have heard an old maestro of guitar saying,
> <The duende is not in the throat; the duende
> climbs up inside you, from the soles of the feet>'.
> 'The duende, then, is a power, not a work. It is a
> struggle, not a thought'.
> (1) It can be shown that no unique algorithm
> can generate the shortest program for computing
> arbitrary, but given, data on a given computer.
> See also: 'Low Xomplexity Art' at
> (2) F. Garcia Lorca: 'The duende does not repeat himself,
> any more than do the forms of the sea during a squall'.
> (3)
> spanish
> (4)
> english

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