Deaf Music Fans Are Finally Starting To Be Heard
October 1, 2017 9:01 AM   Subscribe

Thanks to a concerted push from DHH advocates and a growing cohort of employees plugged in to the DHH community, festival organizers have been prioritizing access for DHH fans. At Lollapalooza this year, a fifth of the 170 performances scheduled had ASL interpreters. [slBuzzfeed]
posted by ellieBOA (11 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
That's really neat, thank you for sharing. :)
posted by mordax at 9:58 AM on October 1 [1 favorite]


It never fails that I will RAPTLY watch the ASL interpreters at a concert or other event, more than I will pay attention to what is happening onstage, to the extent that I often miss the vast majority of the function I came to witness!

I have always, always wanted to learn ASL to be a certified interpreter myself, but I cannot 'reverse' signs shown to me ('mirroring', some other term?). I need to stand beside the person to see what they're actually doing with their hands, then when I try to face them again, I invariably do the sign the wrong way somehow. Add to that the proper syntax of creating sentences, and I am dead in the water. Does that make any sense? It's like a dyslexic block I cannot overcome, to my endless frustration and deep regret. You know how drumming involves all four limbs moving independently to different rhythms? HAHAHAHAAAA, can't remotely do that either. Tip of the 'stark inabilites' iceberg for me, really...

In point of fact, I actually joined Metafilter for the sole purpose of desperately asking about the sheer amount of complete blocks I seem to have in different areas; some learning disability-related, others perhaps-not-so, but I can't be sure. Instead, I have asked a couple 'softball' questions over the months, because I haven't yet worked up the courage to ask my real burning queries. Ugh.

I guess that explains why I have incredible admiration and respect (plus, envy) for those able to sign. Such a gorgeous language. Just riveting to observe in action!
posted by Amor Bellator at 10:14 AM on October 1 [4 favorites]


I asked a few interpreters about this - signing at music events - after an event at my university. They told me that there is some controversy involved in this because in some cases the people who are on stage signing are not interpreting but performing in their own right i.e., they have already planned and memorized their signs so they're going through a pre-planned performance instead of just listening to and "repeating" what is being said. As I understand it, that is contrary to the professional ethos of some interpreters. It was a really interesting conversation and a fascinating glimpse into a world that is very new and unknown for me!
posted by ElKevbo at 11:44 AM on October 1 [9 favorites]


That's fascinating, ElKevbo. I had previously wondered how the ASL interpreters were different from performers in their own right, since the ones I've seen have typically signed quite a bit more emphatically and theatrically than everyday conversation. I always chalked my confusion up to my not getting concerts in general, interpreted or not.

I wonder if D/HoH fans cluster into genres of music like EDM or metal that feature lots of bass. I mean in aggregate, of course. I'm sure somewhere in the world there's a profound deaf guy who likes the piccolo the way I would watch finger tutting.
posted by d. z. wang at 12:42 PM on October 1


When I was 12 years old, I attended a live production of Anything Goes with an ASL interpreter on either side of the stage. Sometimes I easily tuned them out, but other times I would get completely wrapped up in their performance just as Amor Bellator describes.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:51 PM on October 1 [1 favorite]


They told me that there is some controversy involved in this because in some cases the people who are on stage signing are not interpreting but performing in their own right i.e., they have already planned and memorized their signs so they're going through a pre-planned performance instead of just listening to and "repeating" what is being said.

That is fascinating.

It makes a lot of sense that they'd do that - it's not like the musicians on stage are sightreading the song cold - but I can totally see why it would also be controversial, and especially challenging to manage live when the artist goes off script.

The first time I saw something like this (not live sadly) it was the awesome ASL interpreter for Public Enemy.
posted by mhoye at 1:40 PM on October 1 [1 favorite]


I wonder if D/HoH fans cluster into genres of music like EDM or metal that feature lots of bass. I mean in aggregate, of course.

Whenever deaf music fans come up I think of a deaf guy I knew back in the early 2000s on IRC -- I was way into the then-blossoming "rhythmic industrial" scene (super distorted, harsh, and mostly atonal stuff like Winterkälte and Synapscape and Imminent Starvation) and I sent him some MP3s. He liked to play it real loud and feel the bass.

I probably was not popular in his (hearing) household.
posted by neckro23 at 2:26 PM on October 1


I'm sure somewhere in the world there's a profound deaf guy who likes the piccolo the way I would watch finger tutting.

I think you'd be surprised by the great variability of taste and preferences among deaf musicians. I actually just returned from presenting at a conference in England that was wholly dedicated to music and people who are HoH and featured a lot of DHH performers, who played everything from organ to percussion to piano and violin and flute.

In fact, while low frequencies are more easily felt of course, the piccolo is one of the loudest instruments that exists, especially when orientation to the ear is factored in, and depending on the nature and degree of hearing loss may be perceivable for a lot of DHH folks.

they have already planned and memorized their signs so they're going through a pre-planned performance instead of just listening to and "repeating" what is being said.

IME working with interpreters at things like conferences it's usually a combination of the two. We send slides and things ahead of time so interpreters can be familiar with them, particularly if there are more obscure things in them, as you might also find in something like hip hop. My guess is that it's largely the same in performance - and I don't know anyone who would begrudge an interpreter for that. Interpretation is also about capturing the spirit of what your interpreting, and taking a lot of pauses and such during a song to create the interpretation kind of breaks the flow and aesthetic intrigue of the thing. I think if you're interpreting a performance, having the interpretation be part performance, which might require some rehearsal as well, would be completely acceptable if not even desirable. It doesn't make sense to me to hold musical interpretation to the same standards as speech interpretation, because they're two completely different things. Of course, I am not a DHH person, but I think a lot of DHH musician friends would probably feel that way as well. It is interesting, though.
posted by Lutoslawski at 2:51 PM on October 1 [3 favorites]




DEAFinitely Dope teaching Chance the Rapper how to sign Blessings

I saw this last week and thought it was super cool, to see someone who's used to being able to perform getting to work on learning a new skill set, some of the hesitation and smaller scale of his movements compared to the people who interpret for his shows. There's also a side conversation between the two interpreters at one time that suggests the way they interpret the music involves using the same signs over and over at different events, like other kinds of practiced performance.
posted by danielleh at 6:42 PM on October 1 [1 favorite]


I didn't see this linked anywhere, so apologies if I missed it, but this GQ interview with Matt Maxey (DEAFinitely Dope) was super great. There's sections of it which are signed so you can get a sense of what he's saying!
posted by librarylis at 4:26 PM on October 4


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