Katabasis, anabasis: two movements
Last December, I traveled along the Gulf of Lion by train, on my way to visit relatives in Spain. At a stop to change trains in Portbou, a border town in the Pyrenees, I had a few minutes to wait for the train to Barcelona. I decided to walk around the station, just to see what I could. As I rounded a corner, I was slammed by a wall of air that nearly knocked me off my feet. It was the north wind, slipping like greased lightning down the face of the mountain. It had a rich, hollow, ominous sound, like that of a dying bull.
I fumbled thru my belongings and eventually came up with my audio recorder so that I could try to capture it. I stood back from the corner in an area shielded from the direct blast, but where the wind’s deep throaty howl, like an overwrought sound effect from a horror movie, could still be heard clearly. I pressed record. At exactly that instant, a loud machine of some sort kicked in, just on the other side of the wall against which I had shielded myself. Tho it obscured the sound I was after, it replaced it with another similarly interesting sound. I waited several minutes, recording the while, and finally the machine stopped. The bell tower of a nearby church clattered to life, announcing the half hour. I continued recording until I realized that it would not be wise to further delay my boarding the train.
Later I found that some kind of loose connection or other malfunction had chosen that moment to manifest, and marred the recording with a string of unnatural clicking sounds. Not that I mind, in fact. Noise, the unexpected, chaos, all are important parts of this art.
Arriving in Barcelona, I was met by a friend who explained that the wind had a name: it’s called the “tramontana.” It’s easy to parse: the over-the-mountain wind. Wikipedia tells me it is the name used generally, from Spain to Croatia, for the north wind. More specific to the region I visited, however, is that the tramontana is a katabatic north wind that picks up speed as it passes between the Pyrenees and the Massif Central in France.
The word katabatic, and its opposite anabatic are unusually specific. The former refers to a movement from the interior to a coast; the latter denotes the opposite direction.
Filecast 55256 movements opens with the most interesting fragments of the recording I made in Portbou.