Signed Music in the Deaf Community
Performing The Black Drum at Festival Clin d’Oeil
Keywords:Signed music, Deaf people, Performance at festival, Signed language performances, Audience responses, Music belonging
In the spring of 2019, the first signed musical stage production was performed at Festival Clin d’Oeil—the world’s largest deaf arts festival that brings thousands to Reims, France, biennially. Surrounded by visual and performing arts, an invited delegation from Canada debuted the musical The Black Drum internationally, incorporating physical theater, signed music, projection, and dance. Signed music is an inter-performance art that demonstrates musical elements by culturally deaf individuals who have explored creating musical performances with their hands and bodies. These performances operate according to a distinct artistic style, incorporating elements of signed languages; rhythmic hand, facial, and/or body motions; and media video arts. This article offers insight into the performers’ process and development of a deaf-created signed musical for an international audience, the ways signed music galvanizes community and identity through self-expression, and the impact of The Black Drum on an international audience at Festival Clin d’Oeil. Through ethnomusicological analysis and reflection with perspectives as insider-outsider-mediator, signed music has been researched by the authors and observed throughout the development of The Black Drum in preparation for its Canadian and European premieres. The festival setting is a place where new types of performances are welcomed and evaluated for their acceptance into the community. Responses from audience members and performers revealed that signed music is an emerging genre of its own.
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Copyright (c) 2022 Jody H. Cripps, Ely Lyonblum, and Anita Small
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