Review: 32 Sounds


Since sound is vibration and moves out like tiny ripples, then, if I understood correctly, all sounds ever occurring are all still out there moving in perpetuity: my mother’s voice and piano playing, my father’s laugh, my son’s first cry and the first big bang. That’s just one mind-blowing idea Sam Green proposes in “32 Sounds.”

Another concept happily explained by New Zealand-born composer Annea Lockwood is that every being out there is listening and hearing each other. This auditory channel of connection connects us to everything around us.

Sam Green – director, writer and editor of “32 Sounds” – makes the film participatory. Sometimes, he has you close your eyes. Later, he tells you when you can open them. He’s always talking to you, as if you are in the room together. It’s a refreshing, fun experience.

Thirty-two different, specific sounds are presented as if there were 32 chapters to the film. We start with listening to a bird. But this isn’t just any bird. There were two of this species left alive in the world. Then a hurricane comes and the female mate is killed. “32 Sounds” starts off with the song this bird sings after his mate has passed. He is the last of his kind in the world. Green has us close our eyes so that we can just listen. He doesn’t define the birdsong or tell us how it affects him or what feeling he thinks the bird has. That is up to the listener.

Further into the film, Lockwood takes Green on a promenade across a marsh. She dips what looks like a round weight into the water as if she is fishing. The weight, carrying a sensitive listening device, sinks deep and she encourages Green to listen in with his super sound equipment. She cannot tell us what the sound represents. The water current? Fish? Microbes? It’s just that we do hear a busy timpani orchestra or sorts and there is a thrill of connection.

“32 Sounds” is shortlisted for a documentary Oscar. Technically, it is perfection in every single way. Well-organized, clearly narrated, and captivating, the visual images and the surround sound take you to an auditory world of amazement. Intellectually, the audience becomes more aware of the auditory gift.

The “32 Sounds” professional team comprises individual winners of many awards and accolades. Though the film does not exactly tell a story like the other documentary nominees, it is crafted in perfection.


Director, Writer and Editor: Sam Green
Composer and Performer: JD Samson
Producer: ArKtype/Thomas O. Kriegsmann and Josh Penn
Featuring: Sam Green, Annea Lockwood and JD Samson
Editor: Nels Bangerter
Cinematographer: Yoni Brook
Sound Design: Mark Mangini
Co-Producers: Nora Wilkinson and Evan Neff
Release: April 28, 2023 (limited)

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