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Signed Songs:

Also see: The Signing of Songs in ASL

Dear ASL University visitors.
In the Deaf Community there are a wide variety of opinions regarding music and the signing of songs. If you are visiting this page it is likely that you are interested in signing songs.  I encourage you to be reflective and respective of Deaf Culture as you approach the topic of signed songs. 

See the following note that was sent to me by a colleague.
- Dr. Bill


"What Hearing people who work with the Deaf think of of music is not what we Deaf think.

We value eyes, hands, motion, and rhythm!

These things are the basic elements of communication, language, and art in Deaf culture.

Voices, instruments, and sound are NOT very important in our culture. Our world is a rich, visual world!

It is true that many hard of hearing people love music.
Very few people who are "stone Deaf" enjoy music

[Submitted by a multi-generational heritage Deaf ASL instructor and advocate]



The above note is an "opinion" -- but it is a very important opinion that you should pay attention to and upon which you should deeply reflect.

There are significant cultural differences in the way Deaf and Hearing approach music. 

I recommend you do a search for "DPAN Deaf Performing Arts Network" and invest a significant amount of time observing and thinking about how Deaf approach and enjoy "music."



Some people think they are interpreting a song when in reality what they are doing is "dumbing down" a song and expressing it in a visual modality.

Songs are entertaining in part because they are abstracted and the listener (or viewer of signed songs) must make mental leaps to "get the meaning" and since the listener / viewer  had to work for that meaning they appreciate it more.

Interpreters of songs who take away the abstraction of songs are doing the equivalent of "pre-chewing our food."

Signing what a song's author "meant" instead of doing the hard work of finding a linguistically equivalent way of visually conveying how the song writer figuratively expressed a concept causes a signed song to be about as interesting as reading a school-text-book written for a child.

Figurative language in songs is what makes the song interesting. Songs are acts of abstraction. Interpreting often destroys that abstraction and in so doing destroys much of the entertainment value of the song.

If you are going to sign a song in ASL you should do so in a way that maintains and preserves the abstraction or figurative phrasing of the song writer. Keep it interesting.

Don't tell me what a song writer meant
The song writer wrote something cool and interesting in their language.
Don't sign a boring but factually accurate "explanation" of it in ASL. 
Instead sign something similarly cool and interesting in ASL.

- Dr. Bill

Also see: The Signing of Songs in ASL

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