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Music and The Deaf:

Also see: 01 | 02 | 03 |

An older friend of mine once told me how her mother would get out a vinyl record and then take a (fresh) straw from a (new) broom. The friend would place the straw between her teeth and touch the other end to the record spinning on the player. She would "hear" the music in her head via bone conduction.  The vibrations traveled from the record, through the straw, to her teeth and up into her middle then inner ear. No "sound" involved, but she definitely "heard" the music.
-- Dr. Bill

  In a message "Mary" writes:

Hello Dr. Vicars,
  I have been enjoying learning from your site for a few years now. I've been studying FSL (Filipino Sign Language) in Cebu, Philippines while working there as a missionary. I have a small group of Deaf that meets regularly at my house for a Bible study.
My family and I are now back in the U.S. for a year, and I am helping out with the Deaf ministry at my church here. I'm finding out that ASL and FSL are way more different than I originally thought. I'm also finding out that what my friends use in the Philippines is not as conceptual as ASL here; it is more 'English'.   I'll be signing for the songs this Sunday in church, and one phrase in particular puzzles me:

Bless the Lord, O my soul, O my soul
Worship His holy name.
>>> Sing like never before, O my soul
I'll worship his holy name.  

The other interpreters and I talked about it and they suggested: past sing express, but now different - special!

I'm just not happy with it. It seems so tepid. I'm still new to signing, so maybe it does express to the Deaf what I wish, but I just don't know it. Would it be okay to take more liberties and sign something like: me heart-express new hope, new joy
  How would you do it?
Even if you can't get to this before Sunday, which I understand, would you please still let me know for future reference?
- "Mary"


Dear Mary,
You asked how I would interpret "Sing like never before, O my soul."  If I were you. I would try to consider what did the author of the song mean by the phrase "Sing like never before, O my soul"?

I encourage you to google some contact info, pick up the phone (since you are a Hearing person) and call the author (if they are still alive) and ask, "What did you mean by that?"  And while he or she is unlikely to know sign language, you could give him or her some sample interpretations and let him/her choose how he/she would like it to be interpreted

Who knows? You might make a new friend and have an absolutely fabulous experience.

Obviously you are signing (interpreting) for someone local. If you are not doing so yet, I'd recommend regularly sitting down with the Deaf members of your congregation.  Explain the various possible meanings and interpretations of the hymns and then ask them for various ways to sign the concepts that the author probably intended to convey. That might also be a good time to invite your Deaf members stand up and do the signing of the hymns (instead of being passive bystanders).  Technology (karaoke-style visuals) or a Hearing assistant to point to the words would keep things "on track."

- Dr. Bill

p.s. To answer your question, the phrase "like never before" simply means "very enthusiastically." I would treat "sing like never before" as a single concept meaning "sing enthusiastically."  To express the concept of singing enthusiastically I would do a two handed version of the "H"-hand version of SING and I would extend the movement very far up and out. Either that or I would use the sign EXPRESS, but I'd start it closer to the body (like the ASL sign for POETRY) and I'd use two hands thus carrying the meaning of expressing (which is what "singing" is all about) from my soul.


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You can learn American Sign Language (ASL) online at American Sign Language University    Dr. William Vicars

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