Four Shepherds by Duncan Whitley


Four Shepherds is a documentary sound project, based around the vocalisations of the shepherds of a small village in the São Macário mountains. Working with a community of goat-herders in Covas do Monte – one of the few villages in the region where a communal shepherding system is employed to manage the approximately 1,500 goats that are owned and kept there – a series of sound recordings were captured in which the shepherds document their daily work taking their flock to pasture.


Four Shepherds was developed through a production residency in Covas do Monte, as part of Binaural/Nodar’s [link:] ‘Magaio Voicescapes’ programme. The project explores issues of sound and space, the mapping of geographic and acoustic territories through multi-channel sound production (specifically the contested territories co-habited by wolves and the people of Covas do Monte), and the narrative possibilities opened up through reconstructing the individual paths or journeys of four shepherds within an immersive sound environment.


Diary Excerpt: “A call to herd the flock; a shriek to frighten the wolves. Today I made a series of recordings, sketches, along the semi-dry river bed leading from Covas do Monte to the foot of the mountain. The same route I had followed with Luís and ‘Auntie’ Maria Martins two days ago; where María had performed an almost unbroken twenty-minute series of calls and shrieks from the incline, and I had stood right next to her, listening to her voice answering back from the slope on the opposite side.

This morning it is Fátima and Rosa who take the goats to the slope. I wait on a raised platform in the middle of the river bed, where the goats will pass by on both sides of me; hundreds and thousands of stones ‘tinkling’ under the steps of their hooves, creating a dense weave of sound punctuated by the hissing of the accompanying shepherds. Reaching the slope, Fátima and Rosa banter: ‘Olha, viste esta merda de gado?’, ‘É para ali, Rosa. Acho que é do Manuel João…’ (‘Look, did you see that shit of a goat?’, ‘I think it went this way, it belongs to Manuel João…’). In between words, Rosa exhales series of whooping cries, rising and then falling in pitch; her voice emanating out across the stones and shrubland before retreating back into the valley, returning three times as an echo.

Rosa is the new heroine of my project. I hope she may accept my proposal tomorrow to carry a small lavalier microphone and digital recorder with her, as she accompanies the goats from the paddocks up to the base of the mountain. Tomorrow morning I’ll ask, and we’ll see.”

further information about the artist ::

Maps: Download a simple map displaying the principle routes used by the shepherds of Covas do Monte, viewable in Google Earth – [kmz file!] Maps of Covas do Monte.

If you do not have Google Earth installed on your computer,
you can download it here – Google Earth

Credits: Fieldwork carried out at the Nodar Artist Residency Centre (Nodar, Pt).
Photographs by Carina Martins for Binaural/Nodar. All rights reserved.
Special thanks to Luis Costa, Ana Fernandes, Carina Martins and Manuela Barile for their support

1 Response to Four Shepherds by Duncan Whitley

  1. Pingback: open studio[6] :: Four Shepherds by Duncan Whitley |

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