screenshot from the Kelly Clarkson show
In the movie CODA, which is up for best picture at this year’s Oscars, the father, who is deaf, likes to listen to loud hip hop in his car. He turns up the volume to feel the beats vibrate through his body.
One of the film’s co-stars, Daniel Durant, who plays the title character’s brother, has a similar affinity.
“I’m completely deaf. I can’t hear anything at all but I love feeling the vibrations in my body,” he explained on the Kelly Clarkson Showwhile promoting CODA.
Using American Sign Language, he said he learned to listen to music as a child on long car trips to his football games. “Sometimes I would ask my mum, ‘Can you turn it up so I can feel the bass?’ And my mom said, “Yeah,” but we had a hard time hearing it. So my mom went ahead and bought a new sound system, and I loved it. You could feel the bass. C It was so loud. The windows were shaking. It felt so good.”
One day he stayed in the car while his mother walked into a store. He mounted the new audio system and started dancing in his seat. “I loved it. I could feel the car shaking. I was having so much fun.” he said. A stranger drove by and rolled down his window to look at him.
“I just imagined he must have been like, ‘Wow, you have such a great system, playing a great song.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah.’ And I started dancing to him and another person stopped. It was a woman, same thing. I pointed at her and continued dancing.
When his mother came out of the store, he asked her what song it was.
“She started laughing,” he recalls. “You listen to NPR talk radio.”
Durant did not say exactly which program or segment he was blocking.
“There is a rhythmic aspect to speech. Our voices are filled with various inflections and vocalizations,” says Jessica Allison Holmes, assistant professor of musicology at the University of Copenhagen. “With the right speaker system in your car, a booming voice could be heard and you could feel it. Of course, you could listen to the news.”
Holmes is writing a book on music and deafness, and says deaf people have a much broader understanding of music than hearing people. “Deafness is a diverse ideological, physiological, cultural and linguistic experience,” she says. “No two deaf experiences of music are alike.”
In her research, she discovered that many deaf people have developed a very sophisticated conception of sound that is multisensory. “Yes, rhythm and vibes are very important, but visual cues are just as important,” she says. Case in point: Holmes’ uncle, who is profoundly deaf, enjoys going to the opera, where he can feel the emotional trajectory on the singers’ faces. “But he also says that if the music isn’t loud enough or punchy enough, he’s not interested.”
Electronic dance music and death metal are popular among some deaf people, she says, pointing to a non-profit music collective in the UK called Deaf Rave, which hosts Def Leppard music festivals at venues with state-of-the-art sound systems and subwoofers to optimize bass. American deaf culture has a strong tradition of what is called “song singing”, using ASL alongside singers like Eminem or Meghan Thee Stallion at concerts. “They don’t seek to provide some sort of individual translation of the music or the lyrics,” she says. “Signs become their own form of visual spatial music that can often operate independently.”
Audiologist Brian Fligor, president of Tobias and Battite Hearing Wellness in Massachusetts, says that in general, people who are deaf – whether or not they use hearing aids or cochlear implants – will pick up low-pitched sounds better than those who have higher pitched sounds. “Dance music, rap and hard rock tend to be more interesting, at least for deaf people I’ve worked with,” he says, adding that some drum-heavy classical music might also be interesting. . It designates the composer Richard Wagner, or the theme of the film 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Fligor, a member of the American Academy of Audiology, says you need very little or even no hearing ability to listen to music, as long as your vestibular system is working. It’s the sensory system, “specifically the part of the inner ear that tells where our head is in space, and whether we’re moving or spinning,” he says. It is the consciousness of pressure or balance. This system can be stimulated by things like beats and low-frequency sounds, a phenomenon that Fligor says is called the “rock and roll effect.”
“Even if you don’t really hear the music, your vestibular system is stimulated by very intense sounds,” he says. “And it gives you a little endorphin, a little euphoria.”
In this sense, he says, music can be a bridge to unite deaf and hearing cultures.