« For Western music theory, which is so practiced at engaging with sound, songs created in signed languages (such as American Sign Language) pose considerable challenges to our assumptions about the definition of music. If music can exist without sound, then what is music? In answering this question, my talk places sign language music, and specifically deaf music, at the center of music-theoretical inquiry. In centering signed music, I engage with the following questions: what makes sign language music musical ? What parameters of sign language music are available for analysts to discuss and interpret ? How do these parameters interact to form a meaningful musical experience ? And what can sign language music tell us about how Deaf and hearing people understand the musical aspects of physical gestures ? My talk addresses these questions through analyzing voice, rhythm, and melody in a variety of pieces of signed music, and through a detailed case study of Rosa Lee Timm’s ‘River Song’. »
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