Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A Fierce Beauty

Last night I went and spent money that I didn't have on an evening dedicated to the great Spanish poet and dramatist, Garcia Lorca. I commited this rash act (being, as I am, savagely broke), because Lorca happens to be among a handful of artists who have changed my life, and for whom I would, as they say, lay down on the tracks. So parting with my money to go and see it seemed like a relatively small act of devotion.

Unfortunately, the evening was utter rubbish. It took the most razor sharp of passions, some of the most mortally wounding poetry of the 20th century, and put an old, comfy, pair of slippers on it. Though it makes me sad to say it, it was tragically British.

Lorca lived a relatively short life. He was beautiful and he was homosexual, and in the Thirties, Lorca was Spain's greatest living poet, describing and epitomising a spirit of Spain, a spirit that also manifested in flamenco and in the bullfight. In 1936 he was shot dead by the Fascists both for being a poet and for being a homosexual. He died face down in the mud. He wrote these words:

..there are neither maps nor exercises to help us find the duende. We only know that he burns the blood like a poultice of broken glass, that he exhausts, that he rejects all the sweet geometry we have learned, that he smashes styles, that he leans on human pain with no consolation and makes Goya (master of the grays, silvers, and pinks of the best English painting) work with his fists and knees in horrible bitumens..

I think anyone who creates - who writes, plays music, performs, longs for this state that Lorca describes and that runs through all his poetry, because it contains magic and genius. Or perhaps we don't even need to be an 'artist' to have this longing, in life itself we can yearn for it. But most of the time we are so terrified of it that we want to stick to all the safe roads instead; we seek out the poultice of burning glass, but we don't want it to burn our hands.

As I struggle with my own existence, trying to write, trying to make music that might just have some integrity to it; through the loneliness and insecurity of trying to stay with the process and the wildernesses I often finds myself in, it feels a precious thing to try and keep remembering Lorca.

It's horrid seeing the fear of mistakes and failure embodied in another person's performance, as I did last night; to see all the imperfections rubbed out, and with it, all the lifeforce. It reflects what I myself might become if I begin to let those things rule my own poetry and songs, my performance. And it's sad that those musicians' efforts killed even the possibility of anyone in that audience getting the chance to experience the beauty that Lorca lived, and died for. Better perhaps to stay silent, than to kill the thing you love.

Here is some footage of one of the greatest ever Flamenco dancers, Carmen Amaya, who had left Spain by the time of the Civil War and Lorca's death, becoming a world-wide star. Often dancing in men's breeches and a jacket, she danced steps traditionally reserved for male dancers, and she embodies what Lorca describes as that "mysterious power which everyone senses and no philosopher explains.. a power, not a work.. a struggle, not a thought."

He continues "I have heard an old maestro of the guitar say, The duende is not in the throat; the duende climbs up inside you, from the soles of the feet. Meaning this: it is not a question of ability, but of true, living style, of blood, of the most ancient culture, of spontaneous creation."

By the way, the woman in the first video is Eva La Yerbabuena, who is also incredible.

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