The ghostly guitar

Seville

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Night fell on the Santa Cruz quarter. Jasmine flowers, like floating patches of cloud, crept up the whitewashed walls, their intense aroma captivating all who were lucky enough to have wandered this far, the stars stretching into infinity overhead. Only one perfume could compete: the scent of orange blossom emanating from the Patio de los Naranjos, just a few metres away from the Giralda. In Seville, the stars shine even brighter than elsewhere, perhaps they have duende, that mysterious sentiment that impregnates the deepest roots of this ancient capital.

For years, Dr. Miranda Scott had been studying the sounds of musical instruments from the past. One of her most outstanding achievements — using a device she had developed herself, known as a mirandophone — was to have registered melodies played on a viola da gamba almost three centuries ago. The recording was made in the Palace of Versailles, in the halls where it is supposed that the piece was performed.  

In 1972 the German professor, Ernst Senkowski coined the term Instrumentelle Transkomunikation (ITC) to describe any physical recording of sounds from another material or spiritual plane. Incorporeal beings, commonly known as ghosts. Or even more disturbing possibilities. And it was precisely one of Senkowski’s most outstanding students and followers who accompanied Miranda in her research. His name was Brian de Palma, although he had nothing to do with the famous movie director behind films such as Carrie, which, by the way, deals with the paranormal phenomenon known as pyrokinesis. His parents were fans of Scarface and The Untouchables, so had decided to baptise their lad as Brian de Palma.

Brian and Miranda had in fact met in Seville a few years early, recording night-time electronic voice phenomena (EVP) in the San Fernando cemetery, just a few minutes away from Alamillo park.

Both had taken it upon themselves, under the cover a moonless sky, to jump over the wall that surrounded the graveyard. They did so at different spots, but fate would have it that both chose the same time and the same date to record and film their other-worldly phenomena.

They were somewhere between the grave of the painter José Villegas and the tomb of Joselito el Gallo, which is finished off with a beautiful bronze sculpture by Benlliure. The imposing figure of El Cristo de las Mieles was silhouetted against the night sky and a low-flying owl sped past Brian, causing him to let out a startled cry. It was then that he noticed Miranda and was overcome with embarrassment for having been so cowardly.

“Who…? Who are you?” he stuttered. “You scared me to death.”   

“Well, I think what scared you was the owl,” Miranda answered, smiling. She put the mirandaphone on the ground, went over to Brian and held out her hand. “Miranda. Doctor Miranda Scott. I investigate paranormal phenomena.”

Brian was very shy, but he also set down his EVP filming equipment and shook her hand.

“I’m Brian de Palma.”

“Really? I’ve seen all your films!”

“No, not that Brian de Palma. I’m not famous. I do make films, in a sense, but of a different kind. I film images from Beyond the Grave.

They remained hand in hand a few seconds longer than expected, gazing into each other’s eyes with an intensity that left no room for doubt.

It was instant attraction and, without exchanging a word, Brian and Miranda came closer together until their lips met, first timidly and then with increasing urgency. They kissed and began to rip off each other’s clothes, in any case limited in quantity given Seville’s climate and the fact that, as it was already late spring, the thermometers were recording significantly high temperatures.  

“Wait. Someone could see us. Let’s find a mausoleum,” said Mirando, her voice breathy with desire.

After trying various, they finally came across one which was unlocked. They crept inside and made love like a couple of teenagers on the cool marble; as a result, the epitaph, name of the deceased and date of passing were left inscribed on Miranda’s naked back over the next few days.

That night marked the beginning of a torrid romance that would see the couple travel to every cemetery in Andalucia, always following the same sequence of events. First, they recorded sounds and images from other dimensions and then, by the moonlight, surrendered themselves to the most delightful of pastimes. They no longer even feared discovery, or perhaps they wished to be found out and the thrill increased their excitement.

It was after one of these escapades, as they were returning to the hotel on Calle de la Sierpe where they used to stay and review their EVP recordings, that Brian and Miranda heard a guitar, apparently played by the gods themselves. Never had guitar strumming possessed such duende, such magic and such feeling. The strangest thing was that they could hear it with pristine clarity, without psychic interferences or static, or any other kind of noise that could tarnish the performance.

“In all these years of research I’ve never heard anything like it. There are no voices speaking backwards, or in Latin, or lamentations, or whisperings that put your hair on end. It’s guitar strumming. An absent guitar,” observed Brian.

“Who played that guitar and most of all…when? Why has this sound become trapped in limbo?” wondered Miranda.

They went back to the same cemetery time and again to record EVP, make love and return to their hotel eager to hear the next new piece that the mysterious guitarist had performed for them from another world.

With the aim of discovering who it was that played the guitar so masterfully, Brian and Miranda decided to put into practice the so-called Droste Effect to obtain images of the paranormal, in other words, visual representations of the energy emanating from the past or from another plane of existence. The effect is based on the feedback loops that can be recorded by video cameras.

The couple connected all of the electrodes, made the necessary adjustments to the mirandaphone and synchronised it with Brian’s equipment. It was something they had never done before, as the two devices registered different frequencies. For the first time, they would attempt to obtain an image of the person responsible for that guitar playing.

It started out as a mesh of static and horizontal lines, gradually taking shape. And at that moment, the music that could be heard was unmistakable. In reality, it was a melody recognised the world over since it was first composed in 1973.

“Can you hear it? But it’s…”

Entre dos aguas!”

At that same instant, the image on the monitor became clear and they could perfectly make out Paco de Lucía strumming on his guitar, plucking the notes of the song that made him immortal.

“But he’s buried in the old cemetery in Algeciras!” recalled Miranda.

“Geniuses are nowhere and yet everywhere at the same time.”