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.
“All that has dark sound has duende”, he says, “that mysterious power that everyone feels but no philosopher can explain. […] All love songs must contain duende. For the love song is never truly happy. It must first embrace the potential for pain. Those songs that speak of love without having within in their lines an ache or a sigh are not love songs at all but rather Hate Songs disguised as love songs, and are not to be trusted. These songs deny us our humanness and our God-given right to be sad and the air-waves are littered with them. The love song must resonate with the susurration of sorrow, the tintinnabulation of grief. The writer who refuses to explore the darker regions of the heart will never be able to write convincingly about the wonder, the magic and the joy of love for just as goodness cannot be trusted unless it has breathed the same air as evil” – Nick Cave
García Lorca – Theory and Play Of The Duende
Translated by A. S. Kline © 2004 All Rights Reserved. This work may be freely reproduced, stored, and transmitted, electronically or otherwise, for any non-commercial purpose.
“Nature, which is never not lavish of herself, after a lying-in of two thousand years, has finally brought you forth in these last generations, the first true images of the universe. By means of your concords of various voices, and through your ears, she has whispered to the human mind, the favorite daughter of God the Creator, how she exists in the innermost bosom”
Johannes Kepler published Harmonies of the World in 1619. This was the summation of his theories about celestial correspondences, and ties together the ratios of the planetary orbits, musical theory, and the Platonic solids. Kepler’s speculations are long discredited. However, this work stands as a bridge between the Hermetic philosophy of the Renaissance, which sought systems of symbolic correspondences in the fabric of nature, and modern science. And today, we finally have heard the music of the spheres: data from outer system probes have been translated into acoustic form, and we can listen to strange clicks and moans from Jupiter’s magnetosphere.
Towards the end of Harmonies Kepler expressed a startling idea,–one which Giordiano Bruno had been persecuted for, two decades before–the plurality of inhabited worlds. He muses on the diversity of life on Earth, and how it was inconceivable that the other planets would be devoid of life, that God had “adorned[ed] the other globes too with their fitting creatures”. [pp. 1084–1085]
While medieval philosophers spoke metaphorically of the “music of the spheres“, Kepler discovered physical harmonies in planetary motion.
Kepler explains the reason for the Earth’s small harmonic range:
- The Earth sings Mi, Fa, Mi: you may infer even from the syllables that in this our home misery and famine hold sway.
At very rare intervals all of the planets would sing together in “perfect concord”: Kepler proposed that this may have happened only once in history, perhaps at the time of creation.
The Woods – Polly Paulusma (2007) video illustration by Rima Staines
Quite possibly the best thing I’ve ever heard 🙂
“All arts are capable of duende, but where it finds greatest range, naturally, is in music, dance, and spoken poetry, for these arts require a living body to interpret them, being forms that are born, die, and open their contours against an exact present.” – Federico García Lorca
“When we acknowledge duende, when we allow ourselves to look at it squarely and invite it into our experience… in those moments we are capable of true transformation. Without integrating an embodied understanding of the truth that this moment – this project, this relationship, our entire lives – will ultimately shift and expire, all of our actions will be undermined with a false sense of permanence. May everything I do take the impermanence of my own life into account. I care for my body not in spite of, but rather because one day, not too long from now, it will rot into the ground. I pursue my passions believing that someday, as whatever-it-is that these passions are made of continues to exist after my death, this incomprehensible assemblage of something will be enriched because of how I chose to shape it when I was alive: I am a throughput. Upon my expiration, may the energy that was me be more capable of creative expression, more self-aware, and better able to love because of the work that I did while I was alive.” ~ Lorca