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Signs of very cool.
February 23, 2009 4:47 PM   Subscribe

Maybe I'm crazy, but this seems to be a very cool effort by a sign language interpreter to include the hearing-impaired in the Gnarls Barkley lyrics experience.

Too bad it's not on youtube anymore... however, other ASL interpretations of popular songs are still available.
posted by prefpara (42 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's not just an experience of the lyrics; a person with hearing impairment could easily read them. The thing that's really clever is that both of the guys are signing in time, with signs repeated where there are repeated drum beats etc. I wish I could read ASL!
posted by Lotto at 4:58 PM on February 23, 2009


ASL fascinates the hell out of me, but I'm pretty sure deaf people are just a myth. C'mon, who are you fooling?
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 5:03 PM on February 23, 2009


Deaf People: Absurd Liberal Myth
posted by signalnine at 5:11 PM on February 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


That's rad! I love seeing the ASL done in time, as Lotto mentioned. This reminds me of a question I think I've asked here before: is there such a thing as "rhyme" in sign language?
posted by freebird at 5:12 PM on February 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


OK, that was completely awesome.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 5:17 PM on February 23, 2009


I've been following stormfx since I found his Marilyn Manson video. I love the Black Eyed Peas interpretation (bonus points for including Keith Wann, who did a great sendup ASL version of Sir Mix-a-Lot's classic on Youtube).
posted by zippy at 5:21 PM on February 23, 2009


All his videos were quite cool. I liked that he's trying to interpret not just the words, but also the spirit and style of the songs. I guess anybody fluent in ASL could just do the lyrics, but I what struck me was that the performance aspect communicated the experience of how you feel when you listen to a song and made that experience more inclusive.

Are there any bands that collaborate with people like this for official projects? There seems like some interesting potential there.
posted by mostlymartha at 5:24 PM on February 23, 2009


I would like to know what someone who is actually hearing impaired thinks.
posted by empath at 5:31 PM on February 23, 2009


haha! You're crazy!
posted by Navelgazer at 5:39 PM on February 23, 2009


Goddamn, sign language would be amazing merged into some kind of dance performance, whether or not it followed the lyrics.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 5:56 PM on February 23, 2009


<Mandatory Noir Désir did it first comment>
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 5:56 PM on February 23, 2009


Wow! Loved how he made communication a dance there. The more I see of this, the better.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:01 PM on February 23, 2009


freebird: "That's rad! I love seeing the ASL done in time, as Lotto mentioned. This reminds me of a question I think I've asked here before: is there such a thing as "rhyme" in sign language?"

That's a good question. It's hard for me to imagine a language without rhyme, but I'm guessing for a person born deaf the answer would be no, since there's no sounds to the letters in the first place. It'd make conventional poetry a lot less interesting, since many terms would lack their original rhythm and rhyme. Is there such thing as deaf/sign poetry, that calls on timing of hand signs and "wordplays" based on similar-looking signs?

Forgive me if I used any terms that sounded antiquated/ignorant. I really am not aware of what's appropriate/not appropriate when referring to the deaf community and facets of that disability.
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:03 PM on February 23, 2009


I'm a asl 102 student, I didn't catch everything he's signing, but I was able to make some of it and it was very cool.
posted by AZNsupermarket at 6:28 PM on February 23, 2009


Wow, that was fantastic!
posted by arcticwoman at 6:30 PM on February 23, 2009


That's rad! I love seeing the ASL done in time, as Lotto mentioned. This reminds me of a question I think I've asked here before: is there such a thing as "rhyme" in sign language?

There is. Signs that follow a similar motion, but with different hand positions (some ASL prof is cringing at my terminology right now) are analogous to rhyme. Same with puns: many (most?) ASL jokes are based upon similar-looking signs. (There must be a dissertation out there on the similarities and differences between rhymes and puns.)

That said, rhythm is a much bigger deal in the Deaf world, as even the totally deaf can feel rhythms.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:33 PM on February 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


I once saw two deaf people on the subway angrily arguing with each other. It reminded me of a breakdance battle - but then it was the early 80s.
posted by Joe Beese at 6:40 PM on February 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


There are; in addition to similar motions with different handshapes, as ChurchHatesTucker said, there are signs that use the same handshape but different motions, or you can sometimes alter a handshape to fit (the way you might use the "wrong" stress on a word to make a poem flow better). But rhythm is also critical. Incidentally, if you like this stuff, check out the Deaf Performing Artists Network - most of their stuff is on their website, not on YouTube, but it's fantastic.

I'm Deaf, but not a native signer.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 6:41 PM on February 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


I once went to a performance of The Man Who Came To Dinner that was being interpreted for a group of deaf people. I couldn't take my eyes off of the two interpreters. I could always tell exactly which character they were interpreting, however many people were on stage, and they were so eloquent (if that is the right word) in their movements that I was completely mesmerized and barely looked at the actors.
posted by prefpara at 6:43 PM on February 23, 2009


This is great!

... is there such a thing as "rhyme" in sign language?

Disclaimer: The only sign language I know is the handful of baby signs I've used with my children.

I might have been inclined to guess that there wasn't anything quite like rhyme in sign language but after seeing this video I'm inclined the other way. Rhyme is one of several kinds of sound repetition that may arise in poetry. That sign language which dispenses with sound still retains rhythm, of course, but also retains the potential for other types of repetition involving hand forms, hand and arm position, facial expression, and the motion and other patterns of change of all of these.

I'm very interested in responses from members of the deaf community as well as from those fluent in both sign and spoken languages. Surely there must be examples of poetry originally composed in sign language. I'm curious how repetition is used in these, and how it's used in skillful translations into sign language. I'd love to see footage of signed poetry.

On preview: thanks, ChurchHatesTucker and spaceman spiff!

It'd make conventional poetry a lot less interesting, since many terms would lack their original rhythm and rhyme.

That challenge comes up when translating to another spoken language as well.
posted by Songdog at 6:49 PM on February 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


The terpsichorean potential of sign language was exploited by the Canadian dance troupe La La La Human Steps - as their Louise Lecavalier demonstrated in Gus Van Sant's video for David Bowie's "Fame 90".
posted by Joe Beese at 6:57 PM on February 23, 2009


Ignition (remix)
posted by knile at 7:15 PM on February 23, 2009


I like his interpretation a lot, but doesn't his grooving to the beat add words to the song? There were several instances where it looked like he re-signed something on the beats. But, I can't read ASL at all, so I could be wrong.
posted by graventy at 7:17 PM on February 23, 2009


I saw his Marilyn Manson one awhile ago. He's awesome!
posted by Nattie at 7:23 PM on February 23, 2009


Graventy, he was indeed adding/changing signs. I'm not sure if it's due to editing or performance, though.

Either way, it's a bang-up job, and gets the spirit, if not literally the letter, of the song across.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:35 PM on February 23, 2009


Here's the D-PAN Network that spaceman_spiff mentioned above. (New to me. Looks interesting.)
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:44 PM on February 23, 2009


Professional sign language interpreter here. That is some quality work.
posted by eccnineten at 7:58 PM on February 23, 2009 [9 favorites]


If you want to appreciate the nuance that is possible in a spacial language like ASL, just watch this vid and pay attention to the various signs used for "crazy."
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:13 PM on February 23, 2009


Graventy, he was indeed adding/changing signs. I'm not sure if it's due to editing or performance, though.

So, "adding/changing" signs is not quite correct. The catch is this: "signed languages" used in the US fall into two major categories: those that are pure ASL, which is not English, and those that are a blend of English and ASL features (Signed English and PSE being the most common examples). So some songs will be interpreted very "closely" to the original English; a good example of this is Fletch's interpretation of Evergreen. It's done in BSL, but notice how closely you can match the signs up to the words. If you know BSL (or enough ASL to make some educated guesses), you can see that some poetic license is taken - "evergreen" is interpreted more as "lasting forever", for instance - but it's more of a transliteration than an interpretation. DPAN's Where'd You Go is another good example of this. On the other hand, StormFX' work, or DPAN's Lose Yourself (which I can't find on their site now, but is there somewhere) is a much more "pure ASL" interpretation.

To a non-signer, the latter looks much more like interpretive dance. To a signer, though, it's still a very different experience; like I said above, I'm not a native signer, nor am I fluent, but I am relatively proficient, so this is my perspective. When I watch a more Englishy video, I generally have a very good understanding of the song's lyrics; in fact, even if there's vocabulary or constructs that I'm not familiar with, I can generally figure it out. So those videos have been a great tool in my journey through learning ASL. (Clarification: I hear music reasonably well with my cochlear implant, but lyrics are still quite difficult, and I often will listen to new music with a lyrics sheet.) More "pure ASL" videos feel - to me - like more of a music video. I can't necessarily connect the lyrics and the signing in my head, but I understand the song better, if that makes sense; the meaning and the ideas are there, if not the exact word choices. I enjoy both styles a great deal, but they're very different experiences.

Surely there must be examples of poetry originally composed in sign language. I'm curious how repetition is used in these, and how it's used in skillful translations into sign language. I'd love to see footage of signed poetry.

There's a lot of ASL poetry out there; I've not seen a lot of translation from written language poetry, though, since ASL poetry approximates more to beat poetry/poetry slam/spoken performance. That said, I saw a fantastic intepretation of Niemoller's "First They Came" poem about a year ago. Repetition is very common in "sign parameters"; that is, you'll often see repetition of a specific handshape or motion, or a pattern of handshapes (A, B, C, or 1,2,3). I think repetition of exact words or patterns is less common, but I haven't seen enough to be sure. Unfortunately, I haven't seen very much ASL poetry on youtube, though I suspect that will change in the next few years (vlogging has taken off *hugely* in the Deaf community since YouTube's launch). Actually, I'm going to correct that - I just did a search, and there's a lot more than I had seen before! I'd recommend The Lotus, Deaf Ninja (a review, and a link to a description for non-signers) and The Old Man.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 8:54 PM on February 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


Signmark - Speakerbox. Knowing no sign languages whatsoever, I'm sure it's in Finnish Sign Language, but also translated to english. Wikipedia on Signmark.
posted by Authorized User at 9:10 PM on February 23, 2009


One summer, during the camp talent show, a guy did Eiffel 65's "I'm Blue" in sign language. It was night, and there were blue and white strobe lights on him, and it was amazing. This was probably 2000 so that was one of the songs of the summer. It was incredible and remains one of my most vivid memories.
posted by jschu at 9:12 PM on February 23, 2009


Authorized User: that's in ASL, actually. I've seen at least one other song of his that was in ASL ("Our Life"), but I don't know if that's his preferred language, or if he just uses it because ASL is a common second-language for Deaf people who live outside the US.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 9:17 PM on February 23, 2009


Well, it's also a common thing for finnish rappers to rap in english too. So I guess it makes sense.
posted by Authorized User at 9:42 PM on February 23, 2009


Okay, I have to say, that was incredible.

And while I didn't originally care for the song, per se, the guy does an amazing version of Marilyn Manson's "This is the New Sh!t" (in the posted link, NSFW lyrics) and makes the experience quite entertaining.
posted by darkstar at 12:01 AM on February 24, 2009


That was intense.
posted by 913 at 1:25 AM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


#mefi's own TEHLINDSAY with some relevant content
posted by tehloki at 3:40 AM on February 24, 2009


Wow!! So cool. The way he was signing in time to the music was almost like dance. It reminded me of the hand positions in Indian Bharath Natyam dance where the hands convey a huge part of the story being performed.
posted by bluefly at 5:20 AM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


I guess anybody fluent in ASL could just do the lyrics
There's more to it - facial expression and quality of motion are used to add nuance, connotation and intonation. They also serve make the signing more dense and efficient. For example, I had a conversation about trucks with a man who was deaf. We both drove Tacomas (his was new) and I told him that I liked the Tacoma because it drove like a car and not a big truck. I expressed this by reducing the intensity and scale of the sign for car and increasing the scale and intensity of truck. This may or may not have been right, but it was clear to my conversation partner. A big part of language is communication, after all.

I have the sign vocabulary of a 5 year old child (if he was signing Old MacDonald or Bingo I would so totally be there) and missed a lot, but I sure as heck caught the jist of things by facial expression. There are some schools for the deaf in my area, so it's not uncommon to see ASL around here. To some of these people, I'm sure I've become "that guy who eavesdrops on my conversations," but knowing other languages is enabling skill, I like exercising it.

If you like language and want to know more about the brain development associated with signed languages, by all means read Margalit Fox's Talking Hands.

And yeah, Keith Wann is awesome.

Disclaimer: I know PSE and a pile of ASL signs in the context of providing my daughter a leg up in language development. I will also never be able to play charades ever again.
posted by plinth at 6:47 AM on February 24, 2009


There's more to it - facial expression and quality of motion are used to add nuance, connotation and intonation.

It's more than nuance, it's part of the grammar. Teachers of ASL will talk about "Ooo face" (puckered lips, lowered brows) and "Cha face" (raised brows, mouth making a 'cha' sound) that indicate the difference between e.g. a small truck and a very large truck.

Which is what plinth was getting at. I just wanted to show how it's done.

The fascinating thing is that this happens in spoken languages as well. Intonation covers a lot of this, of course, but there's a lot of non-verbal stuff that goes on. That's why we have emoticons, after all :)
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:59 AM on February 24, 2009


YouTube has created a neat outlet for this sort of thing. I made a post with a bunch of signed songs a few years back and it's one of the things I'm always sort of noodling about looking for on YouTube. You see a lot of people in ASL classes doing their best for their finals and then you have people like st0rmfx and Keth Wann who have sort of a meta-interpretation way of looking at the way the performance is appearing to both Deaf and hearing [and CODA and other combinations] of audiences.

Hips don't lie has always been my favorite of all these. There's a lot of neat back and forth in the comments of this one too which happens in a lot of signed songs on YouTube.
posted by jessamyn at 11:10 AM on February 24, 2009


The catch is this: "signed languages" used in the US fall into two major categories: those that are pure ASL, which is not English, and those that are a blend of English and ASL features (Signed English and PSE being the most common examples).

Yeah. ASL is its own language. It has a different verb-object order than English. The problem that comes up is in trying to rectify that with the (laudable) goal of trying to integrate the Deaf population. One approach is to enforce a very "englishy" sign language (SEE for example) in order to make the transition easier. The other is to just treat English as a foreign language.

In practice, it seems to be up to the student as to which is better. There are totally deaf people who operate exclusively in a lip-reading, note-writing environment, and don't sign at all. There are others who have some hearing, but find an ASL environment much more comfortable.

Aaaaand to bring this back on point... The performer here is doing more than would be accounted for by a SEE/ASL difference (It looks to me like he's borrowing some SEEisms, but that may have seeped into ASL over the years.) He's filling gaps, and in at least one case it looks like a shot was stolen from another portion of the video (although, he might have forgotten where, in the song, he was.)
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:18 AM on February 24, 2009


6 or 6:30, there have been deaf dance troupes. La La La Human Steps’ early work incorporated sign-language-like gestural systems, as stated above (Cf. Velázquez’s Little Museum).

Noir Désir was using FSL, n’est-ce pas? It’s the historical precursor to ASL and LSQ. Yes, the antecedent of American Sign Language came from France.

Rhyme: Previously on AskMeFi. Googling the quoted phrase "sign language" or "sign language studies" (the name of the journal) plus rhyme leads to several citations.
posted by joeclark at 12:03 PM on February 24, 2009


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