Signmark of Finland
It is amazing, two consecutive weekends with concerts in West Lafayette and Chicago! It was quite busy and amazing. I went to the one in West Lafayette, but not the one in Chicago, unfortunately. Okay, what? “Concerts…big deal”. Maybe, perhaps to you. The type of concerts I am talking about is unusual. The concerts were performed by deaf men: Signmark and Sean Forbes, respectively.
"What?! You’re kidding me... deaf men doing concerts? Yeah right, I was told that deaf people don't like music."
Do you know of any people who hear that do not like music? I am confident that you can find someone who is not deaf, who does not appreciate music. Oh yeah, I am not kidding. There are folks out there who do not like music.
Ok so... the question you would ask next after getting over your shock is, "How do deaf people appreciate music, not to mention play it?"
Vibrations at Indiana School for the Deaf
Music does not only create sound. Can you take this challenge? Go plug your ears and put your hands on the speakers of your boombox, radio, or television.
Vibrations, this is what music is also composed of. As you can see, the picture on the right shows you a sense of feeling music - often times with hands, chest and feet.
Evelyn Glennie of Scotland provides description of how she is able to produce sound when she cannot hear it. This is a video through TED: http://www.ted.com/talks/evelyn_glennie_shows_how_to_listen.html.
Vibrations, a student troupe from Indiana School for the Deaf, incorporates music with its performances: whether it is a song, ASL poem, or a skit. You can feel the music, not just hear it.
Another band is Beethoven's Nightmare. Did you know that Beethoven, himself, composed his symphonies while being deaf? They use instruments in conjunction with other musicians who are deaf or hearing, ASL/visual performance and singers.
Deaf people feel music through their hands when they touch the piano, cello, or violin. This type of music is soft music which the beat and rhythm is not easily discerned from a distance. There are a variety of people who are deaf that appreciate soft or classical music. Often they have some hearing residual left or like to be in a quiet room (no distractions) to listen to the music.
Now we go to the other extreme, where deaf people can take their hearing aids off (or if none) and just appreciate the music from a distance such as hip-hop, rap, or hard rock to name a few. This is loud music where the beats and rhythm is felt on all levels.
The feeling of the car next to you blasting music is not a unique aspect of deaf people. We see teens doing it and maybe some older people who have turned slightly deaf and just can't hear the music the way they used to. We do tend to increase the bass and reduce the treble. My children like music with the beats, not the soft ones. "No, I don't like", my son says. My daughter follows with a shake of her head and "another one, another one". I do have to be careful with the volume, though.
Music has another aspect to it besides beats and that is singing. I do admit that I like to sing in the van or alone. That way no one has to hear and cringe at my tone-deaf voice (my mother had the same voice too). TL Foresberg and Sean Forbes sing their own songs. Signmark creates his songs, but has a partner who sings them.
TL in "See What I'm Saying" film started out singing and signing at the same time and gradually as she learned ASL, she began to separate the two because of the two languages having their own grammatical systems and different syntax. Now she pre-records her songs and signs them.
Sean Forbes sings his own songs and you can find them on YouTube or on his own site called "Deaf and Loud". It is quite a challenge and he has come a long way since he performed his first song. He is a co-founder of the Deaf Professional Arts Network. www.d-pan.com
There are several artists out there who sign their songs or translate songs into ASL. The ones who are ASL users (and deaf) have the best ones. There are two I forgot to mention - Rosa Lee and Russell Harvard. Individually and together, they are a powerhouse and I foresee many to come. Check them out on YouTube!
Now, who said that deaf people don't like music? We dance to the beat ... tap tap tap ... splat!
To Be Whole
Currently I am an ASL teacher at a local college and at an high school. I received my Masters in Sign Language Education from Gallaudet University. At home, I am an activist within the community, Northwest Indiana. My son is in first grade and my daughter goes to E.C.L.I.P.S.E. ASL Preschool. Change begins with you and change is effective with a team.