Nicholas Sherman’s documentary “Soundtracker” is quiet and unassuming, much like its subject, Gordon Hempton.
Perhaps you have all 53 of Hempton’s albums? Not likely, unlike you’re a nut for nature sounds. For three decades, Hempton has spent weeks and sometimes months away from home, recording Mother Nature’s “basic, simple, rhythmic textures” for audio preservation, before they’re not there anymore.
Sherman’s camera follows Hempton on a trek throughout the state of Washington, recording lapping waves on a beach to waving tall grass in a field. It’s a solitary pursuit in which coyotes howling a night is the opportunity of a lifetime, while a plane flying overhead represents a thorn in his side.
He’s hoping to capture a passing train’s whistle with the song of a bird within the same soundscape, which isn’t as easy as one might think, especially when you’re as admittedly obsessive as Hempton. “Good enough” isn’t in the man’s vocabulary.
Although just a tad too long, “Soundtracker” resonates with a delicate beauty. Hempton’s pursuit is noble; his pain being away from his kids, palpable; and the climax of the film “ yes, there is one “ unexpectedly touching. “Rod Lott