PERFIDIA : the particular »» the universal

this song is to be considered an event in music. composed by Alberto Dominguez, perfidia is a perfect example of how a local, particular, singular work attains evental status and allows THE TRUTH to be approached.

i first heard Xavier Cugat’s version of the song in the Wong Kar Wai film days of being wild. instantly, the sound of Cugat’s orchestral arrangement of Dominguez’s song put me in a state of ecstasy.

the particular song gave rise to universal truth. how? its transferability from one language to another, from one genre to another, from one medium to another. not only can it be translated — it also retains the original presence which marked it in the first place, the presence which elevated it from “just another song” to a specific form of meaning.

that the song is meaningful is evident from the number of talented individuals who have been inspired enough by it to perform it and record it. what is it about the song that gives it a universal meaning? the actual instrumental arrangement of the song is known as bolero, but it is the content of the lyrics that move this style into the space of universality via the song’s content: betrayal, desire, jealousy, and love set against baroque and lush instrumentation.

few songs have had the kind of influence perfidia has had. one example i can think of is Beethoven’s ninth symphony, the (in)famous Ode to Joy. however, i would say that the effects of perfidia have been absolutely positive whereas the Ode, although universal in its appeal, also opened up what may be called “the bad infinity.” not in the strict Hegelian sense, but in the way that all kinds of groups, from fascists to the beijing olympics, have used the song as a kind of ideological tool for manipulation.

all perfidia ever did was break a man’s heart.


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