the dark sounds

"You have a voice, you understand style, but you'll never ever succeed,
because you have no duende." --Manuel Torre*


I had a muse once. She sat upon an ivory column and occasionally tossed nuggets of prose into my brain, then she would smile and fall mute. She was made of mist and glass, a fragile creature that hid her face on a moment's notice. I thought myself a failure as an artist because she didn't serve me, but that was before I found the duende.

The muse is a voice, she is style, but she is not the same as duende. The muse is a whim; duende is the truth of the soul.

Duende is hard to define, but you know it when you see it. Duende produces a visceral reaction and makes your soul shout. The dancer lifts his hands and stamps his foot, and you feel the emotion of that movement from the soles of your feet to the top of your head.

It is in poetry:

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

               ---Sonnet XVII, Pablo Neruda

Duende is all darkness and light, mixed together and revealed through performance. Do not confuse duende with chiaroscuro. Chiaroscuro is the contrast of light and dark, all black and white with pale shades of gray. The duende blends light and dark to produce hues that are deeper, more vibrant and intense. Duende encompasses spirituality in a way that chiaroscuro doesn't.

Chiaroscuro is technique. Duende is loss and yearning and hope made manifest.

The muse whispers. The duende is a wild undulation in the night, a black spirit that gives nothing, but wrenches each word from the heart and flings it across the page in blood and tears.

Keep your muse.
I dance with the duende,
I dance in the dark,
and I see the light.


*The quote is taken from a lecture given by the Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca in 1933, Theory and Play of the Duende.