La beaute sera CONVULSIVE ou ne sera pas – Andre Breton
Ladies and gentlemen:
Please try to forget, if you can, those heretical convulsionnaires, dismissed by Diderot as ‘a sect of fools’ and derided by experts of the day as an unfortunate by-product of dysfunctional gynaecology, or the ‘moral inferiority’ of women.
………More profitably, consider Baudelaire’s view: inspiration, he said, ‘has something in common with a convulsion’ and, he noted further, all sublime thought is ‘accompanied by a more or less violent nervous shock which has its repercussions at the very core of the brain.’ The essential, constitutive qualities of ‘convulsion’ may be detected in the oneiric aura of Paquita Valdes, as described by Balzac in La Fille aux Yeux d’Or. He wrote: ‘there was something sombre, mysterious, sweet, tender, constrained and expansive, an intermingling of the awful and the celestial, of paradise and hell…’ Again, consider a landscape from Flaubert’s Salammbo: ‘An immense mass of shadow lay spread out before them, containing vague crests that looked like the gigantic waves of a petrified black ocean.’
………A more recent example, ladies and gentlemen, may be the up-tempo classy yet anarchic mambo-cha staccato interpretation of Frenesi by Edmundo Ros with vocals by Caterina Valente; perhaps the ideal musical expression of convulsive beauty on account of its predominant sense of ‘apparent gratuitousness’ (Breton).
………Finally, it was Garcia Lorca who reminded us that it is not a matter of theatrical intonation, dynamic vocal flourishes, skill or virtuosity, ‘but of a style that’s truly alive.’ Just like a little girl the poet saw in Puerto de Santa Maria singing and dancing a ‘corny Italian song… with such rhythms, silences and intention…’, that ‘she turned the Neapolitan gewgaw into something new and totally unprecedented…’ She has duende!
………Convulsive Beauty is paradise deranged.
………Thank you for listening, and
Illustration Nick Victor