Pioneering sound alchemist and Experience Lab guest faculty Yoko Sen has been generously and deeply listening to the powerful and courageous voices of health care heroes at the forefront of the COVID-19 pandemic. Through this moving work of art, Yoko reveals with unparalleled intimacy, clarity, and authenticity what it feels like to be a caregiver in such intense and uncharted territory.
We were honored to host the health care premiere of Sounds of Caring: New York. This extraordinary collaboration between Sen Sound and Northwell Health, a New York-based health system that has cared for the most COVID-19 patients in the country, features the voices and stories of caregivers leading the way through this crisis. In this Salon conversation with Yoko and Northwell Health Experience leaders Sven Gierlinger and Aggie Barden, we explore the importance of listening generously to the voices and wisdom of our heroic health care workers.
Yoko, Sven, and Aggie first met in the inaugural 2017 class of Inside Out—our National Collaborative for Experience Transformation—and this year they’ve had the opportunity to combine their talents and passions for transforming the health care Experience to bring voice to the feelings and emotions of the extraordinary team members and caregivers leading the way through the pandemic.
Yoko is an ambient electronic musician and the founder of Sen Sound, a social enterprise with a vision to transform the sound environment in hospitals as well as the beeps from alerts and alarms. She is guest faculty in The Experience Lab, a fellow at the Halcyon Incubator, and a Citizen Artist Fellow at Kennedy Center. Her sound is described as soothing — like listening to a dream — and it is this unique sound that has taken her work to many interesting places such as IDEO and TEDx. Sounds of Caring: New York has been selected as a Venice Film Awards Finalist (September 2020), received the Independent Short Awards Bronze Award (September 2020), and received Official Selection for the IndieX Film Fest (October 2020).
It was Yoko’s own personal health care Experience five years ago that sparked her passion for reimagining hospital soundscapes. While spending many hours in the hospital, she was terrified by what she heard — a cacophony of alarms, beeps, patients in pain, doors being slammed. It is said that hearing is the last sense to go at the end of life—as Yoko laid in her hospital room, she wondered what the last sound she would get to hear at the end of her own life. As she got better, she decided to explore ways to help humanize the hospital Experience by transforming the sound environment—for it to be safer, more soothing, and beautiful.