Monday, January 10, 2011

Music To My Eyes?

My son is staying after school to rehearse for the ASL showcase this Friday night. All of the ASL students auditioned for the show. Haddy was a judge. They asked him to join in for the show.

The thing that struck me last year is it is all interpreted music. It was cool but felt odd to me. I am used to going to the deaf school to see ASL poetry. My first instinct was why were they just doing music? A deaf audience might be really bored and it is their language. Then as I really thought about it this year I started to kind of get it. Just like lots of stuff I encounter living with a deaf kid, its complicated. I really don't have a conclusion but just a ramble of thoughts.

Part of learning a language is learning the culture. So I at first imagined the kids learning ASL poetry. By then I imagined what that show would be like. 500 hearing people watching with blank stares having no idea what is going on. ASL poetry is usually not interpreted. 500 people falling asleep in their chairs. The kids would not have a strong enough understanding of the language to really pull it off. There would be no shared experience.

Many deaf people I know enjoy music. Heck, even really deaf Haddy enjoys it when he feels it. The kids incorporate dance, lighting and props so there is a visual element. I guess I still feel a bit odd about it. When I asked Haddy what he thought he said it was boring to watch, all music.

Then I got to thinking this is the one show at the school where they won't have any accessibility issues. Shouldn't it be really as entertaining for the deaf audience? Maybe add more dance and a theater element? I remember the deaf folks who have attended the last two shows Haddy was in really loved the dancing. I don't know. It is just something I think about.

I also got to thinking that when we lived in LA we saw a deaf group preform music at Deaf Expo. It was really cool so maybe my initial reaction was misplaced. I would still like to see a little bit of deaf culture injected but how cool is it we live in a time where there is a whole evening show dedicated to my son's native language? How cool is it that the ASL program has a waiting list?

So what would a deaf native signer want to see that would be accessible to a hearing audience in a way the bridges the two communities by limiting accommodation? What can a deaf person tell me about watching interpreted music? Is there a different way for these kids to showcase the accomplishments?


  1. ASL songs have become a bit of a phenomenon on Youtube, but as far as I know, only a few deaf people are doing it.

    However, there is Signmark, a deaf rapper (though his native language in Finnish Sign Language, he raps in ASL). His intended audience is clearly deaf/deaf culture related. He's one of his videos, if that helps:

  2. That deaf people don't enjoy music is really a myth that should be debunked. My mother and my sister adore music.

    Maybe it'd be ideal to take cues from native signers. Don't know if you recall the group called MUSIGN. They were the best; most of them were Deaf of Deaf (DoD).

    DeafRead is probably not the best place to get those questions in your last paragraph answered. Deaf teens don't patronize DeafRead, do they?

  3. There are Deaf who enjoy music but the problem is, music isn't a part of DEAF CULTURE. Every semester, I have my students come up with skits for ASL Skit Night. They have a choice of doing an ASL poem, a Deaf cheer/song (i.e. Bison song at Gallaudet but create their own with same beat), an ABC story, a number story, ASL storytelling, or mime a story. There are PLENTY of other options that these kids can do. I do allow one or two songs in those skits performed by advanced ASL students but never more than that because it's really BORING for Deaf audience members. =(

  4. I forgot to add one more: handshape story (use a single handshape throughout the story or a series of handshapes alternatively or in a pattern).