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.

The goat-herders’ territory is shared with the Iberian wolf, a species hunted almost to extinction across Spain and Portugal in the Twentieth Century. Bounded by the river Douro and two major roadways, the wolves territory is restricted, such as that wolves born in the area will die in this same valley. The shepherds of Covas do Monte employ a range of personalised cries, aimed to scare off wolves that lie in wait of prey in the vegetated mountainside. The cries seem highly personalised and adapted to the penetrate deep into the ravines and slopes of São Macário mountain.

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. A series of sound recordings were developed across a one-month residency in Covas do Monte, documenting the journeys of four of the village’s goat-herders, each of whom carried a lavalier microphone and portable digital recorder during their daily work. The recordings have been conflated into a single, immersive multi-channel sound space, following the concept of four shepherds, four journeys, four loudspeakers.

Google maps image indicating various routes to pasture taken by Covas do Monte shepherds

Google maps image indicating various routes to pasture taken by Covas do Monte shepherds

Credits:
Fieldwork carried as part of a residency at Binaural/Nodar.
Photographs by Carina Martins for Binaural/Nodar. All rights reserved.
Special thanks to the shepherds of Covas do Monte. Additional thanks to Luis Costa, Ana Fernandes, Carina Martins and Manuela Barile for their support.