Masterclass Al-Andalus

David Russell, Director

Masterclass Al-Andalus



Masterclass Al-Andalus is dedicated to exploring the legacy of Al-Andalus and what it can bring to the performer. One inescapable legacy of Al-Andalus is that of "Duende". An indescribable spiritual experience of music and life, one cannot help but to be influenced by its appearance---and perhaps forever changed.

Of duende, the great Andalusian poet, Federico Garcia Lorca wrote:

"All through Andalusia, from the rock of Jaén to the snail’s-shell of Cadiz, people constantly talk about the duende and recognise it wherever it appears with a fine instinct. That wonderful singer El Lebrijano, creator of the Debla, said: ‘On days when I sing with duende no one can touch me.’: the old Gypsy dancer La Malena once heard Brailowsky play a fragment of Bach, and exclaimed: ‘Olé! That has duende!’ but was bored by Gluck, Brahms and Milhaud. And Manuel Torre, a man who had more culture in his veins than anyone I’ve known, on hearing Falla play his own Nocturno del Generalife spoke this splendid sentence: ‘All that has dark sounds has duende.’ And there’s no deeper truth than that.

Those dark sounds are the mystery, the roots that cling to the mire that we all know, that we all ignore, but from which comes the very substance of art. ‘Dark sounds’ said the man of the Spanish people, agreeing with Goethe, who in speaking of Paganini hit on a definition of the duende: ‘A mysterious force that everyone feels and no philosopher has explained.’

So, then, the duende is a force not a labour, a struggle not a thought. I heard an old maestro of the guitar say: ‘The duende is not in the throat: the 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."--Lorca

While no one can teach duende, nor possess it to use at will in performance, an encounter with it will not fail to leave us changed. Although beyond our control, duende often returns to those who recognize and acknowledge it, and it often appears more frequently in our lives as performers after having experienced it.

For that reason, Masterclass Al-Andalus creates opportunities to experience duende, or at least for our participants to glimpse it. And with that single glimpse, we will learn what is possible in the realm of artistic expression.