Well, it has been particularly blustery of late; and, according to the BBC, Welsh coastal dwellers are to brace themselves for the fierce storms announcing themselves so boisterously. I am used to such noisy tidings by now. They are part of the seasonal soundscape of the Welsh coast, the otherwise quiet place to which I, romantically propelled, betook myself from the din of the metropolis.
Yes, I can take it now, the sound of the gales pushing against our cottage, the telling rattle of the letterbox long after the postal workers have made their rounds, the creaking of the beams and the lashing of rain against the glass drum of our conservatory, orchestrally augmented by the high-pitched screeching of the twisted willow branches scraping against the panes. Then there is that dictionary-challenging, onomatopoeia-defying shhhshing of the wind, as if nature were insisting on airtime, determined to shut me up, shut in as I am, surrounded by those ominous and still strange sounds.
Before heading out into that storm tonight, for company and a few drinks, I wrapped myself up in a sound cape of my own choosing, a blanket at once muffling and eloquent. BBC Radio 4 offered just that: “The Castle: A Portrait in Sound” (available here until 13 December). A portrait not unlike those produced by the Columbia Workshop in the 1930s and the CBS Radio Workshop in the ’50s (as discussed here), “The Castle” recalls the past of a Scottish stronghold rendered in spoken words, its present, the after-liveliness of its ruins, being captured by natural sounds.
When its palette is not muted by the welcome commentary that gives names to its noisemakers, the sonic portrait of “The Castle” reverberates with the spray of the sea, now stormy, now calm, with the buzz of insects and the chatter of swallows, of skylarks and kittiwakes, and the rather obscene squawks of the shags. The fabled invasion of Daphne du Maurier’s avian agitators (last heard here and currently being readied for another big screen attack) was brought vividly to mind.
If only the wind and rain were not messing with the wires again, making it difficult for me to sustain a wireless reception sound enough to get this “Castle” on the air . . .