While reading to my 7 year old daughter Laurelyn the
other day, we picked up a book on how to attract fairies. It was
formatted by culture, and
about halfway through we got to Spain where they describe a mischievous
called Duende. This is the second time I have encountered Duende,
first time I held Duende more as a spirit, though I must admit I don't
a very developed idea of just what a fairy might be.
When I first started
into building guitars, Michael Dunn, just returned
from his apprenticeship in the Spanish tradition on the island of
happened to mention the concept of Duende. This idea has resonated
strongly in me over the years, and at this point I can find no better
explanation for magical quality of the majority of my instruments. It
is as though my instruments have a life of their own from the moment
they are strung up, and
while my work is not unique in possessing this quality, there are
new guitars out there that do not seem so to me.
The idea as I got it
from Dunn runs like this. When a musician has put a lot of time into a
guitar, and has learned to love it, the guitar can become the home of a
spirit which the Spanish call Duende. This spirit causes the guitar to
have a feeling of life and enhances not only the musicians experience
of playing on the instrument, but also the experience of the observer.
The Spanish belief
however goes a step further. It is possible for the luthier who builds
the instrument, with the right attitude toward his work, to create a
home for Duende even before the instrument is completed. While I do not ordinarily think of myself as
superstitious, it is true that a day rarely goes by that I do not think
about Duende as I work.
Here is a further thought I
have had on the subject. You may have heard
that early guitars and guitar like instruments usually had a rosette
filled in the sound hole, either carved in a wooden lattice, or
from layers of cleverly cut paper. The story is that this is to keep
from inhabiting the guitar. I wonder if this isn't turned around, and
true reason was to keep the luthier installed Duende from escaping.
may have been an ungrounded fear. I have yet to see one of my inhabited
become dead, though I have heard others speak of this happening
other instruments. It can be termed "played out", but this usually ends
meaning it is time to renew the joinery as thing have gotten loose, and
of the joinery is essential.
Bruce Sexauer, copyright