Meet Christine Sun Kim — The Sound Artist Who’s Changing The Way We Listen

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“p is my favorite musical symbol,” Christine Sun Kim explained during a recent TedTalk. “It means to play softly. If you’re playing a musical instrument and you notice a p in the score, you need to play softer. Two p’s, even softer. Four p’s, extremely soft…but no matter how many thousands upon thousands of p’s there may be, you’ll never completely achieve silence. That’s my current definition of silence. It’s a very obscure sound.”

Kim sounds like a musician when she talks about her work, but calling her that doesn’t tell the whole story. She’s an interactive designer, public speaker, and experimental sound artist. She’s best known for the creative and exploratory ways in which she manipulates sound.

Which is pretty damn impressive, considering that she’s never heard any of it. Because Christine Sun Kim is deaf.

“I watch how people behave and respond to sound,” she says. “At the same time, I’ve learned that I create sound…thus I’ve learned from example. Don’t slam the door, don’t make too much noise when you’re eating from the potato chip bag, don’t burp…all of these things I term ‘sound etiquette.’ Maybe I think about sound etiquette more than the average hearing person does. I’m hyper-vigilant around sound. I’m always waiting in eager nervous anticipation around sound, about what’s to come next.”

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