a power, a struggle, spontanuous creation
In “The Theory and Function of Duende” Frederico Garcia Lorca attempts to shed some light on the eerie and inexplicable sadness that lives in the heart of certain works of art. https://www.poetryintranslation.com/PITBR/Spanish/LorcaDuende.php
The duende, then, is a power, not a work. It is a struggle, not a thought. 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. [..] everything that has black sounds in it, has duende. [i.e. emotional darkness‘] … This ‘mysterious power which everyone senses and no philosopher explains‘ is, in sum, the spirit of the earth, the same duende that scorched the heart of Nietzsche, who searched in vain for its external forms on the Rialto Bridge and in the music of Bizet, without knowing that the duende he was pursuing had leaped straight from the Greek mysteries to the dancers of Cadiz or the beheaded, Dionysian scream of Silverio’s siguiriya.“ … „The duende’s arrival always means a radical change in forms. It brings to old planes unknown feelings of freshness, with the quality of something newly created, like a miracle, and it produces an almost religious enthusiasm.“ … „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.“
Bob Dylan has always had it. Leonard Cohen deals specifically in it. It pursues Van Morrison like a black dog and though he tries to he cannot escape it. Tom Waits and Neil Young can summon it. It haunts Polly Harvey. My friend and Dirty 3 have it by the bucket load. The band Spiritualised are excited by it.