SASL Journal Vol. 1, No. 1 - Page 87

Understanding Signed Music Cripps & Lyonblum audio-centric experience as a result of a poor sense of identity. Such outcome is understandable when considering that some deaf people do not have optimal access to ASL, and are thus restricted by not knowing or being part of deaf culture. The large number of deaf people born to hearing parents who do not learn to sign in their early years (90% - 95%; Lederberg, Schick, & Spencer, 2013; Mitchell & Karchmer, 2005) is a serious matter. It is known that many deaf people learn signed language upon enrolling in a school for the deaf or upon reaching adulthood and meeting other deaf people through the deaf community. Deaf children integrated in local public schools in recent years have their own challenges. The impact of many deaf people not experiencing full enculturation in ASL is part of the reality for the deaf community. This lack of enculturation includes how deaf performers (listed in the quote above) have used auditory musical instruments and have imitated hearing musicians. (See French (2016) and Jones (2015) for examples of imitation performances). What must be considered is the poor accessibility for deaf people concerning deaf music as compared to signed music. It is true that deaf people enjoy vibrations (as mentioned by Loeffler and Leigh et al.), but this is only one part of the musical experience. Experiencing music through tactility and vibration is simply a means of following the path of audible music. Deaf people will continue to be left out when appreciating the meaning of a musical performance, especially when depending on translation between ASL and English. What deaf people need is exposure to signed music in action. Only signed music can provide a comprehensive and fully accessible musical experience. In comparison, the musicians discussed in the preceding section, Janis E. Cripps and Pamela Witcher were born to deaf parents and grew up in a signing household in a family with a strong affiliation to the deaf community. This strong background in deaf culture is why these musicians with strong deaf culture backgrounds were selected to study. Moreover, J. H. Cripps et al. (in press) explained that signed music has the quality (in the case of Eyes and An Experiment Clip) to serve as a natural enculturation and mentorship experience promoting the solidarity of the deaf community. Other deaf musicians born to hearing parents can produce high quality musical pieces when exposed to ASL early in life and taught properly in school about what signed music is, for example. Finally, the term “deaf music” is narrow in its definition when compared to signed music. Deaf individuals are not the only ones that create signed music performances successfully. There are hearing signers who have created signed music performances as well (e.g. Earth Move 3 performed by Sherry Hicks and Michael Velez who were raised in a signing household with deaf parents and are CODAs). The term “signed music” appears to be more socially inclusive as compared to “deaf music.” Hearing individuals who have the intention of performing signed music will need to be fluent in ASL and demonstrate respect for deaf culture (i.e., cultural sensitivity; J. H. Cripps et al., in press). Another term, visual music, also needs to be addressed. This term is attractive (as deaf people perform signed music through the visual means), but this term can create confusion. Visual music is popular and in active use among hearing people. Visual music has been reported in the music literature since 1910s. Roger Fry coined this term in 1912 (Zilczer, 2005). During the 1910s to 1920s, visual artists such as Wassily Kandinsky and Frantisek Kupka asserted that their abstract paintings included the nonfigurative structures of musical composition, which paved the way for a new type of art - visual music. Synaesthesia is the concept that visual music artists pursue, incorporating different senses (i.e., smell, touch, taste, sight, and hearing) along with the variety of arts (Strick, 2005). Visual harmony with color aesthetics is one of the most popular properties 3 To view the excerpt of “Earth Move”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G9n1L08BWWE SASLJ, Vol. 1, No. 1 – Fall/Winter 2017 87