SASL Journal Vol. 1, No. 1 - Page 98

Is Silence Music to the Eye? Egbert Signed Music: A Symphonious Odyssey provided an opportunity for cultural and musical growth across communities with an interest in Deaf Studies. The conference, hosted by the Society for American Sign Language at Towson University in Maryland, provided numerous opportunities to explore, examine, and tease out disparities in aspects of signed music, ASL poetry, and storytelling. The day-long event was well-attended by national and international researchers, undergraduate and graduate students, Deaf community members, Children of Deaf Adults, parents of children with Deaf children, Deaf artists, and more. The day began with presentations on research in Deaf Studies and ASL. Presenters offered insights into sign language, as used in the United States and Canada. Videos featuring both Deaf and hearing artists had been prepared prior to the conference to be shared with the participants. Discussion was presented on storytelling, poetry and … signed music. When interacting with both Deaf and hearing professionals in the field, the most common and substantial misconception is that “signed music” is when a person tries to apply ASL or signed words to mainstream hip-hop, country or any type of instrumental music with lyrics. In terms of signed music, this is not at all the case because of the cultural and linguistic differences between English and ASL (see J. H. Cripps, Small, Rosenblum, Supalla, Whyte, & J. S. Cripps, in press for further details on the concept of signed music related to cultural norms). Spectators of Signed Music: A Symphonious Odyssey were afforded the privilege of having signed music explained in presentation form, and performed both on-screen and in live performance. The forum showcased accomplished artists who graced the audience with their signed music performances and poetry. Historic videos were shown. Live theater was enacted. Audiences experienced a gamut of emotions from amusement to sadness. At one poignant segment, the assembly experienced clear confusion followed by absolute understanding. Toward the end of the performance, Dr. Jody Cripps dressed to conduct a symphony with white gloves and a tuxedo. The camera focused on his hands. The symphony began, and yet, his hands did not move. We waited. Still no movement. At first, there were little grins in the crowd suspecting a technology malfunction. Still no movement. The audience members began to look at each other. Still no movement. After a considerable amount of time, his hands awoke and signed, “Would that be considered music? That’s what is up for discussion.” Is “nothing” music to some? Is silence music to the eye? To my Deaf eye, a silent eye would be death. Researchers have begun to perform their due diligence by exploring the research and publications on the topic of signed music. Authors like Jody Cripps, Anita Small, Ely Rosenblum, Samuel Supalla, Aimee Whyte, and Joanne Cripps have produced analyses outlining the merits of signed music. The author(s) provide definitions, examples, patterns, and rules, in addition to current and historical accounts of signed music. These writers have conducted substantial research (J. H. Cripps, Rosenblum, & Small, 2016; J. H. Cripps et al., 2017; J. H. Cripps et al., in press). William Stokoe’s work had value that was initially ignored. Scholars did not attend workshops or read journal articles to guide them in the groundbreaking notion that ASL was a language. If William Stokoe, Ben Bahan, and others’ work had gone unnoticed or uninvestigated by other researchers, where would the ASL and Deaf community be in the state of our own research and discipline now? As a research community in Deaf Studies, it is scholars’ obligation to explore and understand signed music. From a research standpoint, academics must keep exploring all components of the abundance of avenues in our Deaf community and signed language. SASLJ, Vol. 1, No.1 – Fall/Winter 2017 98