February 2nd – The Festival of Wind Instruments

Today is the second day of The Gale of the Dead. The wind has picked up since the Festival of Kites yesterday, so kite-flying is inadvisable. Today people will begin to prepare for the more destructive winds of tomorrow, but in no great hurry; children will still play in the streets, leaning all their weight into the wind and remaining upright. Yet today is not just a continuation of yesterday; it has its own activities and traditions, too. The wind changes direction slightly today, becoming more of a northerly than north-easterly gale, and whilst this doesn’t seem to change any of its positive effects on the population of Buentoille, it does have some other interesting effects on the City itself.

In Guilgamot district, hundreds of wind-instrument players (organised by the Union of Wind Musicians) meet on the Prophet’s Steps with specially adapted instruments. They clip themselves onto the handrails that run up the steps so that they can keep both hands free without being blown away. The wind moves particularly fast up the steps as it is funnelled in by the walls either side at exactly the right angle.

The adaptations to the players’ instruments usually look like some kind of funnel; they gather the passing wind in such a way that it becomes high-pressure enough to play their instruments. Of course, the adaptations vary from instrument to instrument, with flautists having comparatively simple additions than woodwind players. There are other places in the city which have the requisite wind strength to play the instruments, but Guilgamot district has other, more idiosyncratic, charms.

It’s not known if it was originally by design or accident, but the rippling roofs of Guilgamot district sing in the northerly Gale of the Dead. Their particular curves and shapes seem to act like a giant instrument, reverberating strange bass warbles and sighs up and down the Prophet’s Steps. There is considerable debate as to whether the famous architect, Antoni Fiordin, intended the effect when they created the district (which was not finished until shortly after their death), but since then many installation artists, architects and musicians have added their own roof-top wind sculptures, which contribute to the effect.

Visitors with musical inclinations and a stern constitution are encouraged to travel to the district today, as long as they bring a safety harness (currently half-price at Benthel’s Belt and Braces Shop of Complete Reassuring Safety). There they may bear witness to a fantastic, naturalistic open-air concert. As the wind changes speed and direction slightly, the roof bass fluctuates with it, causing strange reverberations that you can at times feel in your chest. This is joined by the smaller sculptures places about the roofs, which create higher-pitched lilting sounds, organised in such a way, at at such pitches, for them to stop and start, creating a pleasing melody. Some of the further-off sculptures can only be heard intermittently, glimpses of beauty caught in the gale. On top of this sometimes random choral arrangement the players improvise beautiful melodies, constantly responding to the changes of the district’s song.

It might seem that the elements are all to disparate, too random and chaotic to produce any comprehensible music, but Buentoille has an enormous understanding and respect for rhythm, and somehow the whole thing always comes off superbly. Whilst it might take the players half an hour or so to get into the swing of things, there are some moments of sublime beauty on those steps, in the warm, happy wind.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Bird Protection

  • The Union of Refuse Collectors’ Day Off