November 9th, 2010

S.C. Hickman

On reading an interview of Quentin S. Crisp

“These dark sounds are the mystery, the roots thrusting into the fertile loam known to all of us, ignored by all of us, but from which we get what is real in art. . . ."
     - Frederico Garcia Lorca

On reading an interview with Quentin Crisp at Matt Cardin's site, the teeming brain, recently I found his view on the anti-muse interesting.

Matt asks: "Have you ever sensed the presence or (anti)inspiration of what might be considered a separate muse, one that draws all inward like a black hole? Have you ever sensed, or even merely considered, the possibility of an anti-muse whose domain is life itself?"

Quentin’s reply: “I like the concept of an anti-muse, though I’m not quite sure what that is. If there is such a thing in my life, I suppose it is just this weariness, this sense that it is more fulfilling not to exist, to efface all traces, than to limit oneself to the determined expression of manifestation.”

I’m reminded of Rilke’s Tenth Elegy in which the anti-muse, a Lamentation, moves along with the poet: “At evening she leads him on to the graves of the oldest Lamentations, the sibyls and omen masters.”

It was the poet, Frederico Garcia Lorca, in reference to the Duende(anti-muse), who said: “”All through Andalusia . . . people speak constantly of duende, and recognize it with unfailing instinct when it appears. The wonderful flamenco singer El Lebrijano said: ‘When I sing with duende, no one can equal me.’ . . . Manuel Torres, a man with more culture in his veins than anybody I have known, when listening to Falla play his own ‘Nocturno del Genaralife,’ made his splendid pronouncement: ‘All that has dark sounds has duende.’ And there is no greater truth.

“These dark sounds are the mystery, the roots thrusting into the fertile loam known to all of us, ignored by all of us, but from which we get what is real in art. . . .

“Thus duende is a power and not a behavior, it is a struggle and not a concept. I have heard an old master guitarist say: ‘Duende is not in the throat; duende surges up from the soles of the feet.’ Which means it is not a matter of ability, but of real live form; of blood; of ancient culture; of creative action.”

He also said:

"Angel and muse come from without; the angel gives radiance, the muse gives precepts (Hesiod learned from them). Gold leaf or fold of tunics, the poet receives his norms in his coppice of laurels. On the other hand, the duende has to be roused in the very cells of the blood. We must repel the angel, and kick out the muse, and lose our fear of the violet fragrance irradiating from eighteenth-century poetry, and of the great telescope in whose lenses sleeps the confining, ailing muse. The real struggle is with the duende…. To help us seek the duende there is neither map nor discipline. All one knows is that it burns the blood like powdered glass, that it exhausts, that it rejects all the sweet geometry one has learned, that it breaks with all styles…."

This sense of duende is at the heart of most great music, as is it is of those transformative moments within the genre of horror. It is root and cause of that which stirs below the threshold of consciousness, gathering its sublime forces, generating the dread and terror that reveal to us the darkest truths of our heritage. The light that formed us from the beginning of time breaks over our vein egos shattering the vessels of our own ignorance sending us into a tailspin of doubt and panic from which there is no escape.

Note: Matt Cardin has an interesting site devoted to the creative muse, check it out: Demon Muse.