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Rio douro. VIRGILIO OLIVEIRA
(Green Field Recordings 2012) 

Last year I stumbled across Green Field Recordings, a Portuguese netlabel that focuses on works derived from pure field recordings. This chance encounter led me to a wonderful selection of publications from the likes of Anton Mobin, James Wyness, David Velez and others who are rapidly becoming respected figures in the world of phonography and sonic art.

Several titles in the Green Field Recordings series focus on water. This is not particularly surprising given the infinite range of sounds created by water and it’s always interesting to see what direction the recordist decides to take their work; whether to manipulate the raw field recordings into new pieces or simply present the unadulterated recordings in their original context.

Released earlier this year, Rio Douro / Douro River vol. 1 follows the path of pure phonography, presenting a collection of recordings that document stages of a journey made by Virgilio Oliveira and Joana Estevao along the Rio Douro during the summer of 2010. An accompanying blog, www.douro-mapasonoro.blogspot.co.uk, was set up to provide additional information about the project and is well worth a visit. The intention of the recording trip was to capture the different sonic ambiences that exist along the course of the Rio Douro and Oliveira certainly presents us with a mixed bag of soundscapes.

The concept is very similar to Luis Antero’s fantastic Impulsive Habitat release O Rio (IHab038). Both use sound to represent different locations along the course of a specific river. Whereas Antero strongly maintained a running theme of water throughout O Rio, only occasionally digressing from the core subject, Oliveira has ventured further afield, often leaving the actual sound of the river behind in favour of exploring the surrounding communities and figures. The following statement was taken from the project blog and helps us understand Oliveira’s approach:

“The Douro River was, and still is, a source of richness for the region and for its surrounding villages. In the old days, it propelled the watermills that spread throughout its banks, it allowed for fishing, it irrigated the fields and would fill the wells of the best gardens in Bemposta, where fruit trees and season novelties would be cultivated, the main livelihood of the local population.”

The Rio Douro acts as a hub from which different sound environments radiate and this notion of the river’s central role is reflected in Oliveira’s selection. The river is not just a flowing body of water cutting through the Portuguese landscape, but rather a crucial element of the larger environment with an influence that extends further than is initially perceived. A very nice piece of work.

-Cheryl Tipp

Virgilio Oliveria discography
Green Field Recordings website