Earlier I mentioned a trip I took to the Austrian alps with some friends to ski. One day on the trip I woke up feeling unwell, so I stayed home. After lunch I felt better, though, so I decided to do some solo skiing in the mountains above where we were staying.

I went high up in to the Nordkette and at times the conditions were white out. It was getting close to the end of the day and I didn’t see anybody else up that high. The snow was deep deep powder and the wind blew constantly. I hiked up hill a bit until I found an empty shack with this ring-shaped railing structure nearby overlooking a big cliff. The snow was falling so thick I couldn’t see for any distance, though I imagine the view would have been something.

Before this trip to the alps–my first–I kept thinking about the idea of the sublime and how it came to be associated with a particular strain of romantic travelogue in the Modern era, pre-20th century. Young folks, often young men with some money, would journey to the alps and have these rapturous, overwhelming experiences. My own history with the sublime is a bit more down to earth (something I may write about another time), and so I was looking forward to having my own Canonical Sublime Experience. I did not have one.

I did have a lovely time, though. And I was in grave danger at one point but managed to survive just fine. But I didn’t experience the sublime. Instead I had the feeling I often have when I go out alone into fresh deep snow–when the ground and the air and the sky are all the same shade of bright grey. I felt cozy and enclosed. I felt very safe (I wasn’t). I felt loud and the world itself, shrunk to a bubble around me, was so silent. I thought that by recording, I might somehow get some of that silence.

This recording is nothing at all like what I experienced. I like it when this happens. You can hear the wind (I wasn’t noticing it), a few birds (they would have been background noise to me), and lots of cracklings and scrapings as the wind blows and dry granules of ice and snow are scattered about (these being too small for my ears to know about). I love that the mics and the recorder captured a completely different world from the one I believed myself to be in. I love how when one of the birds cries, you can hear the echo of that cry bounce around rapidly through space. I love how the wind will hit the mics at slightly different times, and you get this fantastic phasing effect between the right and left speakers while listening back.



Up high above the treeline, snow everywhere. Some cables in the foreground.

Figure 1: Where I was.

My backpack flat on the ground, two tiny mics set on it, their cables snaking back into the pack.

Figure 2: The mics snaking out of my backpack. The low railing there–cliffs on the other side of it.


Nordkette, Innsbruck, Austria
<2023-02-25 Sat>
Sony PCM-M10
Lom Uši mics
2, Stereo
Other notes
Little windshields covering the mics