Music for Deaf People

What does music look like?

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Music for Deaf People
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For the majority of people on our planet music means sound, and sound means hearing. This logic seems essential to the most non-deaf individuals. But the fact is, the hearing-impaired people can enjoy a good song just like the rest of us. Moreover, thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act, US concert venues must provide interpreters upon request.

Traditional American Sign Language (ASL) is a very expressive language that makes songs equally expressive and many times even more expressive than their purely vocal versions. One of the best ASL interpreters in the business is Amber Galloway Gallego, a woman who took sign language to whole new level.

Born in Texas, Gallego knew several deaf people growing up and they inspired her to study American Sign Language in college. After graduation, Gallego dedicated herself to making music enjoyable for the hearing-impaired. It turned out to be a great career path and an honorable calling for Amber. As of today she has signed with a lot of A-list celebrities and has worked with over four hundred musicians. Whenever she interprets for a crowd, she incorporates a whole host of ‘non-manual’ signs. She uses body language and facial expressions and bases her performance on the tone and message of each particular song.

Here she is performing with RHCP in Lollapalooza:

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Some deaf people can hear low vibrations such as bass lines and drums, but even the ones who don’t have any hearing at all can feel the vibrations of the live music. However, entrepreneurs over the years have ignored this fact and have solely concentrated on the lyrics. Amber thought of a way to solve this problem.
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Gallego’s job is quite hard because usually, performers neglect to send her a list of songs they’re going to sing, so she has to memorize pretty much their entire repertoire. In addition to memorizing lyrics, she reads bios of the entertainers to get a feel for them as people and watches videos of their performances to get a feel for them as artists, so she can properly show the singer’s personality for her audience.
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For all her hard work, Gallego earns only about $500 per show. But it’s not about the money for her, it’s about sharing music with the world.

51 comments sorted by best / new / date

    DropDeee
    Both of my parents are deaf and I grew up discovering music for myself since there were no influences at home.   The first album I ever bought was Dire Straits - 'Brothers in Arms' when I was about 8 years old, purely for the 'Money For Nothing' song.   As I got older, I would make CD's for my parents to 'listen to' in their car, putting bass-heavy songs in there for them to feel the vibration through the door panels.   Mum would always say she loved 'Song-8' which was a techno-type song because it had a really distinct beat that she remembered above the rest. Recently, my dad was watching me play guitar and asked me what sound it makes and why there are different strings.   One of the hardest things I've ever had to do was explain to a deaf person what a guitar sounds like or what a chord is and why my hands are in that funny shape on the neck.    Yeah, we do take a lot of stuff for granted...   
    HugoPan
    This is very, very interesting to hear man. All the best to your parents. 
    artificialxlife
    That's pretty rad. There are a few videos on YouTube where folks put their phone inside their acoustic and video the strings and you can really see the vibrations very clearly. I actually replicate that for my students every year when we talk about sound and motion; they get a big kick out of it.
    stixhogan
    My best friend has a similar situation to you.  He's a musician and has been since a young age with two deaf parents.  He's had to explain things to them we all take for granted.  One thing I've noticed with him though is that because of his situation, he's got a far more open minded and appreciative respect for music than a lot of our counterparts. 
    jmarse
    negativefx
    My friend Donny is good friends with a deaf guy named Omid.  I was DD'ing them home from the bar one night and Donny demands I play some songs with good bass (my car has a small sub) so Omid could enjoy it too.  I cranked up track 4 on this album for him since grohl's drum part is fucking insane.  Omid was the first one to notice the album title... never crossed my mind when I picked the song.
    SteveDoninger
    This is a great read. I actually had no idea venues had to provide interpreters upon request. This woman is awesome and should definitely get more notoriety. Surprised Ellen has jumped on this. Well actually, no I’m not, this woman isn’t a kid and Ellen seems to be transfixed on children now… that sentence could have been formed better. 
    Ikilledjimmy
    Saw Green Day at British Summer Time in Hyde Park, and at the very least through Gogol Bordello, Rancid and Green Days set they had two ladies signing through the set. It actually raised the intensity and emotion knowing even the hearing impaired could enjoy it just as much as the rest of us. Wonderful idea, would love to see it executed even more
    gotard
    Awesome but still it's only a poor substitution ;(. I'm really sad for people who can't truly experience awesomeness of music. 
    Spinnerweb
    Just a few days ago a friend and I were talking about how it would be to be deaf when we love music so much. This woman is a hero.
    terranraptor
    fuckin stupid bullshit. Not everything has to be accessible to everyone. The beauty of the music is the tone and the rhythm. With the interpreter there is no way to tell if it's music or poetry. I feel sorry for the deaf/blind people but when you are born deaf, maybe you are not meant to be interested in "music". Nature is cruel!
    Spinnerweb
    I wouldn't wish deafness on you, but try telling yourself that if it happens to you.
    terranraptor
    so what's next i wonder? Paintings, specifically designed for blind people? Mute people as lead singers, you know, all they can do is open their mouth but we will have to guess the words and the notes and emotions based on their face expressions and the shapes they do with their mouths. That's why i call bullshit. Y'all can live in your imaginary world where everybody is equal and should have equal abilities and everything should be accessible to everyone. In the real world deaf people can't hear, blind can't see and mute can't talk/sing. 
    Slackerbitch
    There's no such thing as mute people, yes there are people who for some reason do not talk, but there's no such thing as being mute in the way someone can be blind or deaf. First, a person might not speak due to psychological trauma, but physically they can speak and usually do speak with their closest people. Second, a person might not speak because they choose not to speak, for example most deaf people don't want to talk because they have never heard what they are supposed to say, but they have the ability to produce sound from their mouth. Third, a person might have disabilities in the muscles needed to produce speech, but they can produce sound from their mouth.  Reading facial expressions and lipreading is something that is already done daily all around the world, it is the basis of all sign languages. There are paintings designed for blind people, because they can touch and feel the textures with their hands. There are even blind painters who have careers out of it.  How does it bother you if people can enjoy things in another way than you do? X-rays and penicillin were discovered/created by an accident, hell even Coca-Cola was first meant to be something completely different than what it is today. Why does it matter to you so much if forms of entertainment and expression are used in different ways? I have a degree on sign language and alternative communications, it's what I have based my life's work on. We can go on about this for as long as you like, but I guarantee you I will win. 
    FateDenied
    You're turning this into a SJW thing wich it obviously isn't. Nobody demanded these things to happen, someone just deciced to anyway and people are happy that deaf people can in some way enjoy this part of the world aswell. Nobody is changing the music, the performance remains, in what possible way could this negatively affect the experience for you? Oh right, none. Stop being such a sandy cunt
    curiousjoe
    Way to be bothered by something that has literally no effect on your life whatsoever. 
    Slackerbitch
    Music doesn't mean the same thing to everyone. It's not about the tone and the rhythm to everyone, might be for you, but not everyone feels the way you do. I mean it's music we're talking about here, a perfect example here is that not everyone likes the same song, it's a matter of taste. Besides, why can't the lyrics of music be considered poetry? There are books published with nothing but lyrics from, say, Bob Dylan or Jim Morrison. And people actually study and enjoy them as pure poetry.
    korinaflyingv
    "Moreover, thanks to the Americans with Disabilities Act, US concert venues must provide interpreters upon request." pretty disgusting tbh
    CoyT
    The only disgusting thing is your attitude. Music is the universal language, it can be enjoyed to some capacity by everyone, no matter their limitations, and that's how it should be. Music is a right in this brief life of ours. 
    korinaflyingv
    So venues must be legally forced to provide interpreters? That's pretty insane.
    Slackerbitch
    Well, venues are also forced (as you put it) to provide enough lighting, accessible stairs, safety instructions, fire safety, security, capacity limitations, and a hell of a lot of different things as well that you take for granted every time you go to a concert. Why should this be any different? And why wouldn't they want to provide an interpreter, if that means more customers and more money for them? And most of all, how does this really bother you? What do you lose when someone else gains something? If there's someome who enjoys this, why does it bother you?
    korinaflyingv
    How would you put it? Laws are there to force people to do things. A sign language interpreter could cost up to $100 which would be a significant cost for a small gig. So if this idea of deaf people going to gigs actually catches on it could mean fewer small gigs, so fewer opportunities for small bands to play live. It's not a good idea. 
    Panasonic3
    It's upon request by the band or their manager/record label. Smaller venues don't generally hold larger bands that would have enough of an audience to require an interpreter.
    korinaflyingv
    Maybe this will lead to all the annoying lefty punk bands not being able to get gigs. One can only hope.
    korinaflyingv
    That makes more sense. So promoters can just avoid booking bands that insist.
    imjackcarver
    i wouldn't call it disgusting, but i understand what you mean. i just hope the penalties aren't too bad.
    stixhogan
    On the current Iron Maiden tour, Ghost had a sign interpreter on stage with them that was absolutely CRUSHING IT.  She was one of the most fun parts about watching them because she was getting down so hard I felt like I knew sign language.
    BigDev871
    Wold love to see how she does something heavier for reference, something like Slayer would be neat to see.
    Brands99
    You'd need to have her being filmed on a big screen the entire show then...otherwise the impaired fans would need to be right in the front