The beautiful symphony of music and sign language

William Woods ASL

Music and ASL

More than simply an interactive relationship, American Sign Language and music are in fact one and the same, with more similarities than some may have ever come to fathom.

Deaf sound artist and composer, Christine Sun Kim, explains this concept through her TED Talk entitled “The enchanting music of sign language”.

“For example, a musical note cannot be fully captured and expressed on paper. And the same holds true for a concept in ASL. They’re both highly spatial and highly inflected – meaning that subtle changes can affect the entire meaning to both signs and sounds,” Kim explains.

In her talk, Kim uses musical metaphors to convey the complexity and intricate beauty of ASL, relating it to the melody played on a piano.

She explains that unlike English, which is more of a linear language and can be related to one key on a piano, sign language is the combination of facial expressions, signs and body movements, and is more like a chord.

Kim, through both her art and her music brings new perspective to the language and to Deaf culture in general.

“Maybe people will understand that you don’t have to be Deaf to learn ASL, nor do you have to be hearing to learn music,” Kim expressed to a hearing crowd, “ASL is such a rich treasure, that I’d like you to have the same experience. And I’d like to invite you to open your ears, to open your eyes, take part in our culture and experience our visual language. And you never know, you might just fall in love with us.”

Check out the video below to hear the rest of Kim’s inspirational talk.