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date: 15 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Deaf people are often portrayed as living in a world of silence, cut off both from experiencing musical works and from musical expression. There are, however, many different forms of musical expression in Deaf culture, including “song signing.” This essay explores the idea that deafness, rather than being a disadvantage for musical expression, actually enables distinctive musical performances within the context of song signing. The first section surveys the different varieties of signed song performance, the second contains analyses of videos, and the third compares the Deaf and hearing song-signing communities. Analysis of multiple song-signing videos reveals that deaf and hearing song signers exploit different techniques in expressing themselves musically. The analyses explore the signers’ principal differences in terms of communication, use of space, and rhythmic techniques. The videos analyzed throughout the article reveal how both deafness and hearing can be musical resources in the context of song-signing performance.

Keywords: Deaf culture, song signing, deafness, performance, video

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