’32 Sounds’ Review: Mind-blowing Documentary About The Power of Sound and Human Experience

Film:32 Sounds
Director:Sam Green
Produced By:ArKtype, The Department of Motion Pictures, Impact Partners, Wavelength Productions and Free History Project.
Music:JD Samson

The film “32 Sounds” is a live documentary by Sam Green that examines the emotional and physical aspects of sound. It highlights the significance of listening as a tool for communication, memory preservation, and even historical documentation. JD Samson and Michael O’Neill, the musicians, also accompany the filmmaker to create the soundtrack live before an audience. In this article, we’ll explore the unique experience offered by “32 Sounds” and how it investigates the physics and emotions linked to sound.

Background Information

Sam Green’s “32 Sounds” explores the power of sound through a series of recordings, interviews, and performances. The documentary features 32 distinct sounds, ranging from the sound of a fetus’s heartbeat to the sound of silence. Green’s work investigates the significance of sound in human life and the different emotions that it can evoke.

A Glimpse of the 32 Sounds

32 Sounds

Green’s film provides an insight into the different sounds that humans encounter in their everyday lives. It highlights the significance of sound in communication and how it has evolved over time. Among the most remarkable sounds featured in the documentary are the mating call of the endangered Hawaiian bird, the Moho braccatus, and the sound of silence.

The Film’s Creation: A Unique Hybrid of Performance and Documentary

“32 Sounds” is a live documentary that combines the conventions of a film screening, a theatrical performance, and a live concert to create a unique and ephemeral experience. Green himself provides in-person narration, while JD Samson and Michael O’Neill create the film’s score live. The musicians use their eclectic, mainly electronic style to provide a dynamic and immersive soundtrack.


The Power of Sound in Communication and Memory Preservation

The documentary highlights the significance of sound in communication and memory preservation. Green interviews a former British Library Sound Archive employee and asks her to choose her favorite sound from among the archive’s seven million recordings. The film also explores the ways in which sounds help people communicate and preserve memories.

Binaural Audio Experimentation: Sound in Three Dimensions

32 Sounds sam green

“32 Sounds” experiments with binaural audio to create a three-dimensional sound experience. Green meets with physicist Edgar Choueiri, who uses three-dimensional recordings to create a visceral and immersive sound experience. By shaking a matchbox around a binaural microphone, Choueiri demonstrates how binaural audio can capture the physicality of sound.

“32 Sounds” Performances and their Impact on the Audience

Green’s live performances of “32 Sounds” offer a unique and interactive experience for the audience. With headphones provided to each member, the viewers are fully immersed in the film’s soundscapes. The narration and live performance by JD Samson and Michael O’Neill add an element of excitement and unpredictability to the event.

The Psychology of Sound and Its Impact on Humans

The documentary examines the psychological impact of sound on humans. It explores how sound can evoke different emotions, such as nostalgia, fear, and joy.

The Experimentation with Binaural Audio and Three-Dimensional Sound

32 Sounds Still 1 Credit Free History Project

Each audience member is also given a pair of headphones — Green and his crew travel with 500 of them — to better immerse themselves in the film’s soundscapes, and particularly for its experiments with binaural audio. Among the lively cast of characters Green meets in his wide-ranging meditation on sound and human memory is the Princeton physicist Edgar Choueiri, who experiments with recordings that mimic three-dimensional sound.

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He demonstrates this viscerally, shaking a matchbox at various points around a binaural microphone; wearing headphones, the listener can clearly hear the sound traveling around the head.

Sound as a Living, Breathing Thing: The Fascination and Unsettling Nature of Heightened Soundscapes

It’s fascinating, and slightly unsettling, to experience sound in such a heightened, almost hallucinogenic state. And Green’s film provides ample opportunity to do so: In one of its more bizarre and mesmerizing sequences, a woman describes in detail the sound of her childhood piano, and as she speaks, we hear what sounds like a real piano, only slightly out of tune, responding to her words. It’s as though the instrument is a living, breathing thing.

The Fraught Relationship Between Human Beings and the Natural World

But as “32 Sounds” progresses, Green complicates this idea of sound as a living organism. One of the film’s key tensions lies in the fraught relationship between human beings and the natural world: the ways we attempt to control it, destroy it or extract from it, and the ways in which we are ultimately subject to its forces. (The Foley artist Fang, for example, acknowledges that the sound of the tree falling in the woods was a fun, imaginative exercise, but she’d never actually heard one fall in real life.)

The Poignant Illustration of the Hawaiian Monk Seal’s Sound and Endangered Status

32 sounds 1

This idea is perhaps most poignantly illustrated in the sound Green devotes the most time to: that of the Hawaiian monk seal, an animal currently listed as critically endangered. In one sequence, we see and hear a group of humans trying to save a monk seal pup, who has been abandoned by its mother on a beach; the sound of the pup’s heart racing in terror is nearly unbearable to listen to.

Later, we hear the songs of monk seals, and Green suggests that these creatures are actually singing to each other in a way that could be considered musical. But the beauty of their song is tempered by the knowledge that these animals are on the brink of extinction, and that, in Green’s words, “human beings have messed it up.”

The Unique and Ephemeral Experience of “32 Sounds” with Live Music

As the musicians and Green make much of the soundtrack of “32 Sounds” live before an audience, the film is constantly in flux, making it a unique and ephemeral experience. The live score, performed by JD Samson and Michael O’Neill, is a pulsating, largely electronic concoction that is, at times, reminiscent of a rave. But as the audience is bathed in the sound, it’s hard not to become more attuned to the world of noise around us.

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Hearing the World: The Power of Listening and Participating in the Documentary

“32 Sounds” may be a film about sound, but it’s also about the ways in which we hear — and don’t hear — the world. Green’s live documentary format makes the experience of watching it a participatory one, and, in its own way, a reminder of the power of listening. It’s an invitation to lean in and really hear what’s happening around us — and, in the process, to consider the ways in which our own actions shape the world’s soundscape.

Where to watch 32 Sounds Film?

You can watch the 32 sounds on all streaming platforms including

  • Prime Video.
  • Disney+
  • HBO Max.
  • Apple TV+
  • Paramount+

Watch the official trailer of 32 sounds on YouTube:


“32 Sounds” is a unique and fascinating documentary about the physics and emotions attached to sound. Through a live score performed by JD Samson and Michael O’Neill, the film explores the power of listening and the relationship between human beings and the natural world. With its innovative and participatory format, “32 Sounds” provides a visceral and unforgettable experience, inviting viewers to reconsider the ways

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Pollywood Vox Desk

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