Cinematographic and musical performance on “our relationship to sound” at UA

A documentary and live musical performance examining “the impact of sound on our perception of the world around us” takes the stage at the Marroney Theater this Friday and Saturday.

“Sound is such a deep connection,” said Oscar-nominated filmmaker Sam Green. “I speak now, and I speak, the wind produces sound in my vocal cords and it travels through these wires and currents to reach your eardrum. It’s amazing.”

Green’s inspiration for the “32 Sounds” project comes from a previous documentary he shot on the Kronos Quartet.

“I felt like people weren’t using their ears during the movie,” Green said. “When you watch a movie, you mainly use your eyes.”

In order to create a more integrated experience, Green collaborated with musician JD Samson of punk band Le Tigre and Oscar-winning sound designer Mark Mangini. Samson, who wrote the film’s score, will perform live at the screening while Green narrates.

The 32 distinct sounds Green chose for the documentary are “both nerd and lowbrow.” People can expect a range from fog horns in San Francisco to church bells in Italy. From a whoopie cushion to the sound of Green’s neighbor’s car screaming Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” in the middle of the night.

“The film begins by recording the sounds of a womb,” Green said. “And it ends with an elderly person sitting on their porch, thinking about their partner who’s gone, and she’s listening to the crickets. It’s about being very alone but strangely connected.”

Green’s work for the film began in 2020, during a time of isolation but also “a sense of ‘we’re all in this together'”.

“All the regular patterns of our lives have been scrambled,” Green said. “And I guess I hadn’t really thought about it until now, but while we were alone, we were still connected – and one way was through the senses, like sound.”

Created in an unconventional way, there are two versions of “32 Sounds” – two ways to enjoy the documentary. One version is an immersive live performance while the other was created for viewing at home. Green said his team tours with 300 to 500 headphones that audience members must wear to each screening.

“Theaters have different sound equipment and we wanted to make sure people could have a powerful sound experience, which is why we provide the headphones,” Green said.

“I have to say, being in a room with an audience, with JD playing music and having a collective experience with people, is just magical,” Green said. “It’s the magic of cinema. Simply magic.”

The show takes place at the University of Arizona’s Marroney Theater on Friday, October 21 and Saturday, October 22 at 8 p.m. Tickets can be purchased through Arizona Arts Live.