Deep Song [Cante jondo][1]


Pero como el amor

los saeteros

están ciegos.

Sobre la noche verde,

las saetas,

dejan rastros de lirio


La quilla de la luna

rompe nubes moradas

y las aljabas

se llenan de rocío.

¡Ay, pero como el amor

los seateros

están ciegos!


A woman once asked of me: “Why Lorca?” She might as well have asked me from whence the song of the silence of the hills of Andalusia, or from whence the saetas sung a palo seco. I passed her an answer about a bookshop. What is a bookshop other than one place where one goes to find something which has already been written, only to discover something entirely new? Cante jondo Lorca once said, is simple in ancient styling, addressing to the rhythm of the swallows the natural song of the black poplar and the insistence of the white ocean waves on the foreshore; an unbroken well-saying of the deepest traditions of lalangue, one can say. Perhaps from the gaya of the Sanskrit: to recite, to sing in praise, to dance representations of sorrow and love, where the sāman as textual formalization of the chant are carefully committed to parchment, like the Poema del cante jondo of Federico García Lorca that returns me erstwhile to the sean nós of the Gael, the old song. But let’s translate that too as ‘deep song’: root purity of that which marks the body impure. Ó’Cannain remarks: ‘no aspect of [Irish] traditional music can be fully understood without a deep appreciation of sean nós, it is the key which opens every lock’[3]. It is the song of the contingent, the music of what happens, of happenstance; a recounting the immersion of the tradition of a people in relation to the effects of that minimum part of language as moteriality on the body, the founding act of the unconscious as transindividual, where in the encounter between bodies and word, something is transmissible.

Consecrated in the siguirias of the Gitano’s magnificent embodied rhythms counted in phrases of twelve with off-set rhythmic counterpoints: arrows fletched with living voice, plaintive, guttural, beautiful in aspiration and defeat, striking marks of deep sorrow and profound joy – the wellspring, the music of that which happens, a treatment of the jouissance in mortification of repetition with songs of contingency, of encounters with the real of impossibility, of life and death, love and song, of everyday life, and of the non-rapport between the sexes and the misfiring of the act. Living jaculations which reverberate in the body, situating for example, the relation to the saetas in the passion of the Christ, brother of sorrows, in persecution and death: tradition simply put is transmission, a handing up and a giving over of a half-saying.

Recall T.S. Eliot, After Strange Gods: we become conscious of the artefacts of tradition “only after they have begun to fall into desuetude, as we are aware of the leaves of a tree when the autumn wind begins to blow them off-when they have separately ceases to be vital. Energy may be wasted at that point in a frantic endeavour to collect the leaves as they fall and gum them onto branches: but the sound tree will put forth new leaves, and the dry tree should be put to the axe”[4]. It is the work of discovery of the poetic spark, and of its effect of vivification of the subject in complicity that can treat the only hole which is worth anything: “la seul trou qui vaille, la trouvaille!”[5]  And that is what is transmitted in psychoanalysis of the Lacanian orientation.

Poema del cante jondo, flamenco por Lorca, fin de la fiesta – flamenco de la nada, inicio de la centella del corte y del cordó,  entre palabra y vida.


[1] Cante jondo (Andalusian Spanish: [ˈkãnte ˈhõndo]) is a vocal style in flamenco, an unspoiled form of Andalusian folk music. The name means “deep song” in Spanish, with hondo (“deep”) spelled with J as a form of eye dialect, because traditional Andalusian pronunciation has retained an aspirated H lost in other forms of Spanish. It is generally considered that the common traditional classification of flamenco music is divided into three groups of which the deepest, most serious forms are known as cante jondo. El Concurso del Cante Jondo (Contest of the Deep Song) was a fiesta of flamenco arts, music, song, and dance, held in Granada in 1922. Conceived and initiated by composer Manuel de Falla, it enjoyed early and strong support from the Lorca. The two-day evening event was held outdoors at the Alhambra. Wikipedia: and

[2] Federico García Lorca, ‘Madrugada [Dawn]’, In Poem of the Cante Jondo, tl. M. Sorrell, Oxford University Press, 2007. “But like love’s arrows, saetas fly blind.  Saetas burning lilly streaking green night. The keel of the moon breaks mulberry clouds and quivers fill with dew. Ay, but like love’s arrows, saetas fly blind.”

[3] Ó’Cannain, T., Traditional Irish Music, Cork, Ireland, Ossian Press, 1993.

[4] T.S. Eliot, After Strange Gods: A Primer of Modern Heresy, London, Faber and Faber, 1934.

[5] Lacan, J., The Seminar of Jacques Lacan Book XXII, RSI, Lesson of the 13th of May 1975, Unpublished in English.