Sunday, February 16, 2014

It's NOT Music to My Ears (or Eyes)

You might consider this a rant. I consider it to be more of an outpouring of "tough love."  My topic is the posting of interpreted music on YouTube--more specifically, the posting of music interpreted into ASL *cough* by ASL students and other hearing signers.

This is not a blog about whether are not music "should" be interpreting into ASL. This is not a blog about those individuals who have the experience, the training and talent to do so (Deaf or Hearing).

This is a blog about the hundreds of videos posted by, I would hope, well-meaning and enthusiastic hearing signers who, frankly, have not a clue how to interpret music. Not. One. Clue.

This afternoon I searched YouTube and found more than 15 different ASL *cough* versions of "Royals"-- a wildly popular song. As an interpreter, interpreter trainer and sign language linguist, my studied opinion of each one was, "What the WHAT?" But that is not even the problem. The problem really is in the comments.
These are actual comments:

awesome job, I am only in asl 2 and that even showed the ideas of the song not just the words. amazing!

Beautiful job! <3 nbsp="">

Crisp and understandable, good job!

The videos from which I copied these comments are not shining examples of ASL interpreting (music or otherwise). The commentors often identify themselves as "ASL 2 student" "Want to take ASL classes."

These commentors lavish love and adoration upon these signers, beg them for tutorials, request them to interpret other songs. And if someone posts feedback or someone (say someone who is ME) points out errors, mis-production, etc., then the commentors responses because incredible defensive:

Are you a ASL teacher or interpreter or something? Because you are taking the fact that she signed something wrong too seriously.


So let me get a couple of things out of the way. First, I have no problem with ASL students or interpreting students interpreting songs into ASL. Whatever floats your boat, I say. I may not want to be in the boat with you, but I defend your right to have a boat. But I beg not post the video of your work on YouTube. You do a disservice to current and future ASL students. You set a BAD, yes, BAD example of what music interpreting could and should be. And there is a domino effect. The more we worship mediocre and less-than-mediocre work. the lower expectations become. This is especially important for those just entering the field. Those future interpreters need to be exposed to quality work.

Let me explain it this way. You see, I love to sing. Sadly, I have a terrible voice. That fact does NOT stop me. I sing in the car, in the shower. I sing in the morning and I sing at night. It makes me happy and (so far) the neighbors haven't complained. However, if I were to post a video of me singing...let's say "Royals" by Lorde on YouTube...I guarantee that I'd get lots and lots of negative and perhaps nasty comments and I'm sure those commentors would  confirm what I know...I can't sing. I'm sure, though, that they would say poetically, "You cannot *#!$%-ing sing."  Since most of the viewers on YouTube can hear and KNOW what good singing is...I'm not likely to build a fan base.

I believe these "bad ASL video" posters are looking for that adoration...since they know that the overwhelming majority of viewers do not sign.

My message to these signers is this: