Rio Douro / Douro River, Vol 2. VIRGILIO OLIVEIRA
(Green Field  2012)

Review by Cheryl Tipp

Earlier in the year I reviewed Virgilio Oliveira’s first compilation of field recordings made along the Rio Douro. This collection of 13 recordings took in the sounds of the river itself as well as the surrounding environs to create a sonic overview of his journey alongside this Portuguese waterway.

A different approach has been taken with Rio Douro Vol 2. Recordings have been gently mixed to create a flowing composition that gradually shifts from one sound source to the next. Again, variation is at the heart of this publication. The Rio Douro is not always sonically apparent, yet all recordings, whether environmental or not, are linked in some way to the river. Water does of course play its part, but these sections are counterbalanced with others that feature subjects such as singing, music, snippets of conversation and much more.

The pace of this second volume seems that much slower than its predecessor; this probably reflects the fact that recordings were made during the winter months of 2012. Life alongside the river seems to be in a state of semi-dormancy; things are still happening but at a much slower tempo than was encountered during the previous recording expedition over the summer of 2010. When comparing the two publications, the lack of wildlife in volume 2 is starkly evident. With volume 1, insects and birds create a continual thread that runs throughout the compilation, yet their absence is keenly felt here. This void reinforces a feeling of latency, of a torpid environment patiently waiting for its revival at the first signs of spring.

At just under 20 minutes in length, Rio Douro Vol 2 comes to a close far too quickly. I for one could easily have listened to more. This is not a criticism though. In many ways, this composition is perfect the way it is; the piece is just long enough to facilitate a good number of varied field recordings yet never becomes boring or repetitive. Thus, being left wanting more can only be taken as a compliment and reflects Oliveira’s competence as both a field recordist and an artist.

With two volumes of related field recordings under his belt, I wonder whether we will see further compilations or compositions from Oliveira that have their roots in the Rio Douro. I really hope we do as these two forays into the many soundscapes of this river have definitely left me hooked.

[Virgilio Oliveira]

Virgilio Oliveira website
Green Field website

Cheryl Tipp

Wildlife sounds curator at British Library.