Friday, May 7, 2021

Making Music Visible: Signing In

On a recent afternoon in a brightly lit studio in Brooklyn, Mervyn Primo-O-Bryant And Brandon Kazen-Maddox Were filming a music video. They were recording a cover version of “Midnight Train to Georgia”, but the sounds filling the room were those of Gladys Knight and Pips, who made the song a hit in the 1970s. And yet two men were also singing in the studio – with their hands.

Primo-O-Bryant is a deaf actor and dancer; Kazen-Maddox is an auditory dancer and choreographer, thanks to seven deaf family members who are native to American sign language. Her version of “Midnight Train to Georgia” is a part of a 10-song series of American iconic works by black female artists creating for Kazan-Maddox Broadstream, an art streaming platform.

Around the world, music ties communities together as it tells fundamental stories, teaches emotional intelligence and reinforces a sense of belonging. Many Americans are aware of singing signed from moments such as the Super Bowl, when a sign language interpreter can be seen – If barely – Performing the national anthem with the pop star.

But while there is a proliferation of sign language music videos on YouTube, where they comment to deaf and hard of hearing audiences, the richness of American sign language or ASL has attained a wide scale.

“Silent-deaf actress and dancer Alexandria Wallace used an interviewer to tell me in a video interview,” Music is different things to many different people. Wailes performed “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the 2018 Super Bowl, and attracted thousands of views with his sign language contribution on YouTube last year “Sing softly,” A choral work by Eric Whitacre.

“I realized,” he said, “when you listen, hearing may not sound different to us. But what is your relation to music, dance, beauty? What do you see that I can learn from it? These conversations like these That people need to get accustomed to doing. “

A good ASL performance prioritizes dynamics, fainting, and flow. Sign language parameters – hand size, gait, location, palm orientation, and facial expression – can be combined with elements of a body of visual vernacular, coded gestures, allowing a skilled ASL speaker to perform that kind of sound painting. Can be attached to what composers use to enrich a text.

In a recent video shoot, Gladys Knight’s voice rose from a large speaker, while a very small tuck was placed inside Primo-o-Bryant’s clothes so that she could “feel the music tangibly”, he said. In an interview, with Kazen – Maddox’s explanation. From the camera point of view, an interpreter was ready to listen to all of the crew’s instructions, while a laptop showed the lyrics.

In the song, backup singers – expressed here by Kazen-Maddox – encourage Knight as she rallies herself to join her lover, who has returned to Georgia. Pipps repeats the phrase “all riders” in the original recording. But as soon as Kazen-Maddox signed it, those words increased in signs revealing the speed of the train and its gear. A flickering tug on an invisible whistle corresponded to the woo-woo of the band’s horns. Primo-o-Bryant signed key vocals with movements that slowly amplified the words, such as in the song: “Too long before-oh” to the drawn “ooh”, his hands on his lap. Drowned. Also included two men Signal from black asl

“Hands have their own feelings,” said Primax-O Bryant. “He has his own mind.”

Deaf singers prepare their interpretations by experiencing a song through any medium available to them. Many people speak of their high receptivity to the vibrations of sound, which they experience through their bodies. Trained in ballet as a dancer, Primo-o-Bryant stated that he was particularly connected to the vibrations of a piano as transmitted through a wooden floor.

Was a student at Primo-O-Bryant Model Secondary School for the Deaf In Washington in the early 1990s when a teacher asked him to sign Michael Jackson’s song during the Black History Month. His first reaction was to refuse.

But the teacher kicked him out, he said, and he was in the news in front of a large audience. Then, Primo-O’Bryant said, “The lights came on and my cue happened and I just exploded and signed to work and it felt good.” Later the audience roared with applause: “I fell in love with the performance on stage.”

Signing choices have been common around the world for a long time. But the epidemic has fostered new visibility for signatures and music, aided in part by video-centric technology that all musicians rely on to create art together. As part of “Global Odd to Joy” to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth last year, artist Dalia Ihab Younis wrote a new text for the final chorus of the Ninth Symphony, which was performed by An Egyptian Cappella Choir, Primary signs are taught in Arabic sign language.

Last spring, the epidemic forced an abrupt halt to live singing as it was thought particularly for potential broadcasters of choirs. In response, Netherlands Radio Choir and Radio Philharmonic Orchestra reached out to Dutch Signing Choir to collaborate on a signed ale, “My heart sings, ”In which a musical canning voice was mixed with the lyrical gestures of Eva Harmsen, who is deaf. She joined the members of Radio Chaire, who had learned some hints for the occasion.

“It makes more sense when I sing with my hands,” said Harsen, speaking and signing in a video interview at the Dutch Interpretation. “I also like to sing with my voice, but it is not as beautiful. My children say to me, ‘Don’t sing, mother! Not with your voice. ”

The challenges of signing the music increase manifold when it performs polyphonic works like Bach’s Passion Oratorius, with its intricate tapestries of orchestral and vocal counterpoint and declamatory recitatives. In early April, Sing and signUploaded a new production of part of “Saint”, an ensemble set in Leipzig, Germany by soprano Susanne Hönte, the first of the ongoing venture.

Hont worked with deaf people and choreographers to develop a performance that would not only feature Otorio’s sung words, but also the character of the music. For example, the 16th note moving through the strings is expressed with a sign of “flowing”.

“We didn’t just want to translate the text,” Hont said. “We wanted to make the music visible.”

Just who should be entrusted with the process of making the music visible can be a controversial question. Speaking in the midst of shooting in Brooklyn, Primo-O-Bryant said that some music videos created by listening to ASL speakers lacked expression and slightly more than words and basic rhythms.

“Sometimes interpreters do not show emotions that are tied to music,” he said. “And deaf people are like, ‘What’s that?”

Both men spoke of the impact ballet training had on the quality of their signatures. Kazen-Maddox said that when she took daily ballet classes in her 20s, her signature became more graceful.

“There is a port de bra, which you only learn from ballet, which I was actually engraving in my body,” he said. “And I saw my sign language, which was with me all my life, became more compatible with music.”

Velez also traced his musicality to his training in dance. “I’m a bit more in my body with an overall sensitivity to spatial awareness.” He said, “Not everyone is a good singer, right?” So I think you have to make that analog for signers too. “

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