Chronicle 7. INDO-IBERIAN ARC (Duende)
Χρονικό 7. ΙΝΔΟΪΒΗΡΙΚΟ ΤΟΞΟ (Duende)
FEDERICO GARCÍA LORCA gave lectures not only on cante jondo, but also on the Theory and Play of Duende (1930) – a keyword in order to get to the bottom of the essence of flamenco, of music in general, and penetrate the core of all the arts, especially the so-called performing arts. According to the dictionaries, duende means “fairy, demon, ghost, devil, goblin, spirit – holy or evil.” Dictionaries rarely clarify concepts related to music and culture. And why should we let ourselves in the mercy of lexicographers when we have Lorca as a guide? Let’s listen to him with due attention as we are introduced to the magic and mystical duende:
“All that has dark sounds has duende.” (Manuel Torre)
“All through Andalusia… people constantly talk about duende and recognize it every time it appears with a fine instinct… The old Gypsy bailaora [dancer] La Malena once heard Brailowsky play a piece of Bach, and exclaimed: ‘Olé! That has duende!’, but was bored by Gluck, Brahms and Milhaud. And [the Gypsy singer] Manuel Torre, a great artist of the Andalusian people, a man who has more culture in his veins than anyone I’ve known, on hearing Falla play his own Nocturno del Generalife, spoke this splendid phrase: ‘All that has dark sounds has duende’… – agreeing with Goethe who hit on a definition of duende, in speaking of Paganini: ‘A mysterious force that everyone feels and no philosopher has explained.’(a)
“I heard an old maestro of the guitar say: ‘Duende is not in the throat: duende surges up, inside, from the soles of the feet.’ Meaning, it’s not a question of skill, but of a style that’s truly alive; meaning, it’s in the veins; meaning, it’s of the most ancient culture of immediate creation. It is, in sum, the spirit of the earth, the same duende that scorched Nietzche’s heart as he searched for its outer form on the Rialto Bridge and in Bizet’s music, without finding it, and without seeing that the duende he pursued had leapt from the Greek mysteries to the dancers of Cádiz and the headless Dionysiac scream of Silverio’s siguiriya.”
The “Dionysiac” and “mystic” Hellenes are here again in full force. Their theatre of action is Cádiz, the ancient Gádeira (Gadir), or Roman Gades.(b) To this port of Andalusia outside the Mediterranean, on the Atlantic Ocean, beyond the Strait of Gibraltar, or the Pillars of Heracles, we will shortly return. For the moment, we continue listening to García Lorca spellbound:
“For every man, every artist called Nietzsche or Cézanne, every step that he climbs in the tower of his perfection is at the expense of the struggle that he undergoes with his duende, not with an angel, as is often said, nor with his Muse… Angel and Muse come from outside us: the angel brings light, the Muse form (Hesiod learnt from her)… While duende has to be roused from the furthest habitations of the blood. Reject the angel, and give the Muse a kick… The true struggle is with duende.
“The great artists of southern Spain, Gypsy or flamenco, singers, dancers, musicians, know that emotion is impossible without the arrival of duende. They might deceive people into thinking they can communicate the sense of duende without possessing it, as authors, painters, and literary fashion-makers deceive us every day, possessing no duende: but we only have to attend a little, and not be full of indifference, to discover the fraud, and chase off that clumsy artifice.
“Emotion is impossible without duende.” (García Lorca)
“Once the Andalusian flamenco singer Pastora Pavon, La Niña de Los Peines [The Girl of the Combs], sombre Spanish genius, equal in power of fancy to Goya… was singing in a little tavern in Cádiz. She played with her voice of shadows, with her voice of beaten tin, with her mossy voice, she tangled it in her hair, or soaked it in manzanilla or abandoned it to dark distant briars. But, there was nothing there: it was useless. The audience remained silent… Pastora Pavón finished her song in silence. Only, a little man… sarcastically, in a very soft voice, said: ‘Viva, Paris!’ as if to say: ‘Here ability is not important, nor technique, nor skill. What matters here is something else.’
“Then La Niña de Los Peines got up like a madwoman, trembling like a medieval mourner, and drank, in one gulp, a huge glass of fiery spirits, and began to sing with a scorched throat, without voice, breath, colour, but… with duende. She managed to tear down the scaffolding of the song, but allow through a furious, burning duende, friend to those winds heavy with sand, that make listeners tear at their clothes with the same rhythm as the Negroes of the Antilles in their rite… La Niña de Los Peines had to tear apart her voice, because she knew experts were listening, who demanded not form but the marrow of form, pure music with a body lean enough to float on air. She had to rob herself of skill and safety: that is to say, banish her Muse, and be helpless, so her duende might come, and deign to struggle with her at close quarters. And how she sang! Her voice no longer at play, her voice a jet of blood, worthy of her pain and her sincerity”…
WHAT AN EVENING, INDEED! I’D LOVE TO BE THERE! Well, here we are back to Cádiz with the captivating description of duende by Lorca. It’s where we meet again Donn Pohren, who will lead us to the ancient city of Gadir via… India!
“Today”, Pohren writes in his Biographical History, Lives and Legends of Flamenco, the second book of his flamenco trilogy, “nearly all theoreticians of the dance agree that the baile flamenco is directly descended from the ancient religious dances of the Indian Hindus… What in all likelihood has taken place is that the highly-civilized Brahmanic temple dances were adopted by a lesser-developed people, shorn of many subtleties, and returned to a more natural and primitive art form concerned only with the expression of oneself and one’s emotions.
“Let us attempt to construct a brief history of the development of these Indian dances within Spain. First of all, how did they reach Spain? Traditionally performed only in the temples during Brahmanic religious rites, these dances eventually began to be danced more popularly outside the shrines in India. It was then that they were first introduced into other lands by way of early Mediterranean trading vessels and overland caravans. The point of entrance into Spain was most certainly Gadir, later called Gades, today called Cádiz, the oldest city in Spain, founded by the Phoenicians around 1100 BC. Gadir was an extremely important city, and it is likely that professional Indian dancers were brought in to entertain the city’s royalty, probably during the time of the Greeks, c. 500–250 BC, less likely during the reign of the Romans, c. 250 BC – 475 AD. (Hindu musicians and singers surely accompanied the dancers, and thus also introduced their art forms into Spain during this same period. This would partly explain the strong similarities that still exist between certain types of Hindu singing and music, and flamenco).”
● Although we have just heard Lorca telling us that “duende had leapt from the Greek mysteries to the dancers of Cádiz”, there was probably no Hellenic period then in Gadir. From the Phoenicians and the Punics (whom Pohren seems to ignore), the city passed into the hands of the Romans in 206 BCE. Irrespective of the error, what’s important is not who the master of the city was at the time, but the fact that Gadir functioned as a gateway for the Indian dance and music influence into Andalusia. Whatever the case, we know that in their symposia, the Hellenes, both in mainland Greece and also in the colonies, used to enjoy the art of foreign singers and musicians, mostly women, who (according to the symposiasts’ “tastes”) appeared dressed or nude, as we are told by Athenaeus (“Deipnosophistae”, 3rd century CE) and Suda (“Lexicon”, 10th century).
“These civilizations,” Pohren goes on, “with their emphasis on culture, undoubtedly introduced this religious dancing into their own temples, so that by the arrival of the Visigoths in Andalusia (c. 450–700), this type of religious dancing had already become so traditional as to be carried over into the primitive Spanish Church, encouraged and even performed by early Christian priests. (El Baile Andaluz, by Caballero Bonald: ‘It is now known that the fathers of the primitive Church openly admitted, and even fomented with their examples, the adoption by the Christian cult of certain elements of the sacred oriental dances, frequently danced by the very priests themselves’). The Visigoths accepted Catholicism and merged with the Hispano-Roman population,(c) and religious dancing continued throughout their reign.
“It is postulated that during the reign of the Moors (c. 711–1492) these sacred dances were danced more and more popularly outside the confines of the church, possibly even by Spain’s first gypsies, who were thought to have come as camp-followers of the Moorish armies (after having arrived in North Africa from their homeground, India, by way of Pakistan, Persia, and Arabia). As both the gypsies and the Moors already cultivated a type of dance largely derived from the Brahmanic religious dances, their arrival most certainly gave the existing Andalusian dances a shot in the arm…
“Another historical event in the development of the flamenco dance was the arrival of the second migration of gypsies to Spain around 1450, shortly before the Moors were expelled from their last footholds in Andalusia. The gypsies arrived from India by the northern route (Persia, Russia, etc.), bringing with them their interpretations of Indian dances and songs, and adding fresh fuel to the Andalusian folklore…
“After the Moors were forced out, all religious connotations in the dance ceased. The dances were not only banned from the Church because of their increasing sensuality and ‘sinful movements’, but at one time persecutions were carried out against interpreters of certain dances regardless of where they were danced. It was then that the dance, together with the cante, went underground, becoming an art of the ‘lawless elements’ of society. This happened more or less simultaneously with the 16th century edicts ordering the expulsion of the Moors, gypsies, and Jews, and can probably be cited as the beginning of the formation of flamenco as we know it today.”
This panorama on the evolution of dance from the Indian Brahmanic temples to the Andalusian gypsy camps, with all intermediate stages, has a negative side: it is one-dimensional, presenting India as the matrix of the art of dance – and even more – leading to wrong conclusions. But if, instead of the dance, we trace the evolution of the guitar, the entire mosaic of exchange becomes balanced and three-dimensional. Our guide, Pohren, as a guitarist, moves now into far more familiar waters:
“The Spanish guitar”, he remarks in the chapter of the same book (Lives and Legends of Flamenco) dealing with his instrument, “is the direct offspring of, principally, the guitarra latina (Latin guitar) and, secondarily, the guitarra morisca (Moorish guitar), both of which are generally believed to have descended from the ancient kithara asiria (Oriental zither).(d)
“First let us attempt to trace the kithara asiria [Assyrian]. José de Azpiazu, in his book La Guitarra y Los Guitarristas, makes the observation that we must look to Egypt and Babylonia for the earliest string instruments, including the zither, from whence they passed on to Syria, Persia, India, and the Middle and Far East in general. He bases this assumption on diverse archaeological finds, principally in Egypt, singling out in particular a bas-relief, dated at 3500 BC, discovered in the tomb of one of the Kings of Thebes. This bas-relief, now in the museum of Leyden (Holland), includes an instrument somewhat resembling today’s Spanish guitar. Azpiazu also states that around the time 1000–800 BC the Egyptians possessed an instrument greatly resembling the modern guitar. This instrument could easily have been the previously mentioned guitarra morisca, or one of its predecessors in its development from the kithara asiria.
“However, in view of continued archaeological discoveries, no date or place can be irrevocably pinpointed concerning the origin of any of the ancient stringed instruments. The discovery by an English archaeologist, Kathleen Kenyon, determining that the city of Jericho was teeming with life as far back as 6800 BC, makes the first Egyptian dynasty (3400 BC) seem relatively modern. In truth, the family tree of string instruments, in all of its rich variety, is as vague as civilization’s early history. Perhaps the only data available to sustain the belief that the guitar is descended from the ancient kithara asiria is the similarity and progression of the zither-guitar terminology in various languages, and the corresponding similarity and development of the instruments represented by the terms, as follows: qitâra (Chaldea – an ancient region in Southeast Asia, on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers), quitar (Arabic), sitar (Hindi), kithara (Greek), cítara (Spanish) and guitarra (Spanish).
“If we wish to follow the popular theory that the guitar was derived from the kithara (there is no good reason not to), the guitar’s development in Spain can be traced in rough outline. It is generally agreed that the kithara asiria (then called the kithara romana) was introduced into Spain during the time of the Romans, sometime before the birth of Christ.(e) The kithara flourished in Spain until the fall of the Spanish Roman Empire (5th century), at which time it fell largely into disuse until the invading Visigoths were firmly established on the peninsula. The Visigoths set about reviving the old Roman culture, and the kithara again emerged. In the 7th century San Isidro wrote of wandering minstrels singing and accompanying themselves on the kithara… It was around this period that the guitarra latina, an instrument containing four sets of double strings and which resembled a small version of the present Spanish guitar, was developed in Spain, presumably, as we have stated, from the kithara romana.
“Meanwhile, in the Middle East the kithara asiria had long ago inspired the family of the guitarra morisca, an oval-shaped, three-stringed instrument introduced into Spain with the 8th century Moorish invasion. It is thought that the only significant characteristic that the Latin guitar borrowed from the Moorish guitar, in its development into Spanish guitar, was the idea of the single strings in place of the formerly-used sets of double strings.
“So by the 9th century there existed in Spain guitars not unlike those we play today, but until the troubadour period (the 11th through the 13th centuries) the guitar was not widely introduced to the general populace. Little structural change of any significance took place in this guitar until the 16th century, when Vicente Espinel began using a fifth string. (This was not Espinel’s invention, as guitars had existed previously with five strings. Espinel merely made the fifth string fashionable. Many musicologists express the belief that the famous Ziryab himself first innovated the use of the fifth string in the 9th century). With this development the Spaniards finally seemed to feel that the guitar was their instrument, and it was then that the guitarra latina was rechristened the ‘Spanish guitar’.(f) Two centuries later the final radical development was made, which was the addition of the sixth string by fray Miguel García, a monk also known as Padre Basilio, an excellent classical guitarist and the guitar instructor of King Carlos IV, Queen María Luisa, and the famous concert guitarist, Dionisio Aguado. Thus, except for its growth in size and quality, by the latter third of the 18th century the Spanish guitar was as we know it today.
“Now that we know something of the development of the guitar, let us look into the development of the music. According to Lévi-Provençal (La Civilización Árabe en España), the great tradition of Andalusian music was molded together and developed in the Cordovan conservatory of music established and directed by the Mesopotamian musician, Ziryab, in the 9th century. (Ziryab arrived in Córdoba in 822, in his early thirties, and remained there the rest of his life). What he must have done was gather, and become proficient in, the Andalusian folklore of that period, which was, of course, highly Oriental in nature, and conserve and teach it to attending minstrels and nobility in his conservatory. As he had spent years in the courts of Baghdad, and was the supreme musician of his time, he undoubtedly added to, and purified, what he found. Ziryab, in fact, is credited with having played the major musical role in making Andalusia the outstanding cultural center of the world at that time.”
“Ziryab played the major role in making Andalusia the outstanding
cultural center of the world in the 9th century.” (Donn Pohren)
IN THIS MONUMENTAL MURAL, created mainly by Lorca and Pohren, with all the others contributing, we only need to apply some extra brushstrokes to… exonerate the Assyrians, who became notorious in history mainly for their cruelty, but also to show that in social processes, parthenogenesis is out of the question in all places and all times – even in the case of the ancient “Hellenic miracle” that has been feasible due to borrowing intellectual achievements and know-how from the Orient.
The cithara was an instrument of the professionals, while its little sister, the lyre, of the amateurs. According to the Encyclopedia of Ancient Hellenic Music by Solon Michaelides (the source of much valuable information throughout our Chronicles), the cithara was called Ἀσιάς (Asian). Plutarch (1st–2nd century CE) claimed that “it was called Asian because it was used by the Lesbian citharodes [or citharoedes, or citharedes (cithara + ode), i.e. cithara players who also sang] dwelling close to Asia”. This is, of course, a pretext – even if Lesbos is actually close to Asia Minor. The truth is found in the writings of Hesychius of Alexandria (5th century CE), who explained that the cithara was defined as such “for it was invented in Asia”. The adjectives Ἀσιάς and Ἀσιᾶτις (Asian, Asiatic) were used not only in relation to the cithara, but also to music in general; as Strabo points out: “… καὶ ἡ μουσικὴ πᾶσα Θρᾳκία καὶ Ἀσιᾶτις νενόμισται”; “… all music is thought to be Thracian and Asian” (see the Chronicle 11. “Music Is Thracian and Asian”). Ancient Thrace, mind you, was not a part of ancient Hellas.
These instruments of the cithara and lyre family have been extinct for centuries now because they were left behind in the development of music, becoming inadequate and thus unable to satisfy the needs of the people – musicians and listeners. They are now rarely found still in use among primitive tribes, primarily in northeastern Africa – and this is indeed a pleasant surprise! Some German ethnomusicologists recorded, among others, the sound of a lyre played by a cattleman, member of the Hamar tribe in Ethiopia, and put his photo on the cover of the album. Isn’t it impressive? The symbol of so many “serious” music institutions, the “musical instrument par excellence” of the ancient Greeks, the celebrated chelys of Hermes, who offered it to Apollo (to atone for stealing his oxen!), to be “degraded” in the hands of primitive Africans, and also been made with a tortoise shell? It can’t be, these Germans should have been related in some way to… Fallmerayer!(g)
In conclusion, if we assume that the guitar descended from the ancient cithara, the latter must have been combined with some kind of lute – that is, with an instrument having a “neck” – as the guitar belongs to this lute family. The only similar instrument in ancient Greece was the so-called tríchordon (three-string), or pandura, pandurís, pánduros, and phánduros. In the Hellenistic era there was already a whole family of such instruments that became later even larger with the additions of the erudite thambura (tambur of Constantinople), folk tanbur-saz or bağlama, and also bouzouki (see Chronicle 9. The Celebrated Tríchordon).
Pollux (2nd century CE), writing about the origin of the instrument, is very clear: “Tríchordon, which the Assyrians called pandura; it was also their own invention.” Therefore, etymologically and organologically, the pandura was Assyrian. We can assume, as a result, that the cithara asiria, which Pohren referred to, should have been related to the pandura. The term tríchordon that the Hellenes used for the pandura means that it was a three-string instrument. Let us not forget that the guitarra morisca, descending from the cithara asiria, was also a tríchordon.(h)
It’s so thrilling to imagine that the starting point of all these instruments was the primitive hunter’s bow; that in time of rest could become a musical bow…
Next Chronicle 8. A HYBRID’S HYBRIS… ● “Mosaic” of Andalusia ● Cultural “Crossroads” and “Purity” ● Natural and Artificial Hybrids ● “Creative” Commercialization ● Paco de Lucía