I’ve had a Dan Stone novel in my head for a while but I’ve had to set up the character, and frankly, I didn’t think I had the skill to write the story a year and a half ago. I think I’m ready to try, but only after finishing my Mexico story. In this new story, Dan falls in love with a musician. I’m interested in the unlikely pairing of a man of action, ostensibly without much in the way of artistic sensitivities, with a world-class artist. And, further, how he becomes her muse.
Over the past year or more, as my mind had rambled over this theme, I found myself remembering an obscure book I had read years ago about the Spanish art of flamenco. Now flamenco is often thought of as a form of guitar playing or aggressive tap dancing with much rhythmic clapping. There are those elements, to be sure, but flamenco is really about the singer and the song.
Deep in the back streets of Grenada, Spain, you can find dark clubs, where you can hear the raw, gypsy-inspired flamenco. It’s all about the songs; songs of raw emotion where the singer unabashedly shows his or her pain. The songs are about a lost love, the love of a city or culture now gone, the singer torn from his or her home and roots. The songs speak about pain and heartbreak being a part of life; a part one cannot escape. If one has life, one has pain; there is no avoiding it. You can let the pain eat you or you can force it through you and out into song. In song you can let out the raw emotions, unashamed, unapologetic and, so, for a moment, shed your pain by sharing it with others.
The guitarist plays in an extravagant style that mimics the raw expression of the singer. It provides a suitable fill and accompaniment for the rough-edged singing. The dancing and clapping, sometimes done by the singer, provide the cadence and rhythm to the singer’s emotional expressions.
The best flamenco is found in the bars and clubs filled with small audiences. The singer does not send out all that emotion, that crying out for what has been lost, that pain, into the vacuum that can often be found in a large concert hall. The singer is communicating to his or her audience, looking to connect, to draw the audience into their pathos. “You understand my pain. Let me tell you more about my broken heart. I see it in you. I want you feel it like I do.” The singer connects. The audience experiences the catharsis the singer goes through. Everyone absorbs the sadness, the tragedy felt through the song and all go home washed in that experience. I wonder whether or not the best flamenco singers could perform without an audience.
So, in my new story (still in my head), the protagonist finds he is touched by the artistry of this world-class musician. This connection he experiences starts to feedback to her and she finds herself opening up her art to become more expressive. She wants to touch him (her immediate audience). He becomes her muse, and out of this synergy her music and a love story grows.
The musician in my story is like the flamenco singer without the rawness of expression. Interestingly, I heard of a famous pianist (from Argentina) who retired from concert performances and would only play small recitals. After some years of performing in large concert halls, she found them to be too sterile, too draining. The smaller venues gave her the feedback loop she needed as an artist, the connection to the audience that fed her artistic expression instead of draining it. Maybe the artist needs the audience. Maybe the audience completes the loop of creativity and enriches both parties. Yes, I understand many artists would create even if no one listened to or looked at their work. But in the performance arts—music, dance, acting—the audience is perhaps a critical part of the creative process.
That’s what I’m going for as part of my story. It should be fun to write and bring an interesting interlude to the middle of all the thriller action. Let me know what you think.
PIcure is from a youtube video by Eli Ramirez. You can find the video here.